Should Utley Hit Third Against Lefties?

Chase Utley is 4-for-9 in his last two games, which could be a sign he is coming out of a funk that has lasted for more than a month.

The Phillies hope so.

Since Utley reached a season-high .290 average on Aug. 1, he has hit just .221 with a .280 on-base percentage and a .329 slugging percentage. He has just nine RBIs in 36 games, which is alarming considering he has been hitting third in a lineup that is tied for second in the National League in scoring in that stretch.

Utley’s .771 OPS is easily his worst since he became the Phillies’ everyday second baseman in 2005:

  • 2005: .915
  • 2006: 906
  • 2007: .976
  • 2008: .915
  • 2009: .905
  • 2010: .832
  • 2011: .771

“I think his injuries over the last two or three years have been real serious,” Charlie Manuel said following tonight’s 4-3 loss to St. Louis. “He’s not where he used to be, but I think he’s due to get hot. I think somewhere along the line … I think he’s due to have a little run where he’s hitting the ball good. Hopefully we can get him there before the playoffs start.”

But what if he doesn’t get hot? Utley is hitting .192/.286/.323 against left-handers compared to .289/.365/.474 against right-handers. Manuel already is using a platoon in left field with Raul Ibanez and John Mayberry Jr. because he’s taking advantage of his talent to put the best lineup on the field. So why not move Utley out of the No. 3 hole against left-handers and replace him with Hunter Pence? Pence is hitting .313/.400/.597 against left-handers.

“I don’t know,” said Manuel, asked if he would move Utley out of the No. 3 spot. “It’s hard to say. I don’t like to commit to nothing. Why should I sit here and say something? I might do anything. I don’t know.”

Of course, where would you hit Utley then? Normally, I’d say hit him second because he’s such a high on-base percentage guy, but he’s not getting on base against left-handers. You could hit him fifth. But what’s two spots in the order really going to do? Maybe nothing, but the higher you hit in the order the more plate appearances you get. It could mean just one extra at-bat for Pence in one game against a left-hander, which could mean the difference between a rally or runners left on base. One or two more big hits in last year’s NLCS and the Phillies quite possibly beat the Giants.

Something to think about.

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10 Comments

well, now is definately the time to try things out to see how they work. Good to see gload hitting at last-will be very important in the playoffs that he is hot. I can’t believe that in the end, none of our 4 aces will reach 20 wins this year, despite the team winning over 100 and our expecttions of nearly all of them reaching that number

It just shows how difficult it is to win 20 games amid pitch counts, limited starts and limited innings. They turn games over to relief pitchers making the league minimum. It’s the same reason I laughed at the talk last year of Halladay winning 30 games. Those days are over.
You can’t realistically expect 4 pitchers to win 20, let alone 1 or 2, no matter who they are.

And, now is definitely NOT the time to start monkeying with the lineup.

I think we all know what kind of manager Charlie is and that he’s not gonna move Utley from the three spot for at least the rest of the season.

honestly, if they don’t hit better as a team than they did against the Cards, it really doesn’t matter. Repeat of last year.

I completely agree with moving utley in the line up. Charlie’s always talked about as a players manager, but when your number 3 hitter is struggling to keep a .260 avg, you have to move him. especially when there are guys who could fill that spot and be the difference in a close game

The way teams like the Giants beat the Phillies last yeat — have a bunch of solid lefties in the bullpen to moe down Utley and Howard. At the very least, Utley and Howard should not bat consecutively. Balance your lineup to offset any bullpen strategies. Rollins (S), Victorino, (S), Pence (R), Howard (L), Polanco (R), Utley (L), Mayberry/Ibanez (can be switched if there is a bullpen change), Ruiz (R). Obviously you can play around with this. Looking for balance in the lineup.

Hard to believe that Charlie will start moving big pieces going into the postseason, especially considering the success they have had with Pence batting 5th. When they pitch around Howard, Pence has been making them pay.

Nah. That just means Pence will be stranded at third to end the inning.

Sure, let’s start goofing with the lineup a week from the playoffs.
Slow news day, Todd?

Maybe Utley just shouldn’t hit at all. Tired of these veterans suckin up. The times we’ve had real sparks this year at bat was when some of our bench guys were in – and to be honest the way that Martinez can keep balls from going into the outfield, and make double plays, I have to say – I’m half over Utley. Tired of hearing all the bs – like “he’s such a strong smart player, great work ethic, etc…” PROVE IT BUDDY! And oh yeah “he has such pressence” on the team. He barely utters a word. Wake up man – All of the Phils needa wake up. Get your hearts and heads back in the right place. They’ve had soooo much-right there- just waiting for them to take it all – and they messed it up in ’09, they totally messed up in ’10, and its beginning to feel like we are heading the same direction for ’11. For the First time in Phillies history, I really thought we had the best bunch of guys we’ve ever had to actually win a few WSC in a row – and check it out, not even having the best pitchers will make a difference if our offense continues like this. It’s that simple. And to think of how many more wins Halladay & Lee would actually have this year had their team actually put up a few runs. I get ill thinking about it when commentaters are talking about the CY Young candidates. It’s ridiculous.
Went to the game tonight. 45,000++ in the stands – but I’ve never heard it that dead sounding. People are concerned. This isn’t a new thing to them, nor a road they dare wanna travel, AGAIN. They won’t get anywhere facing the American League, like their playing now, if they make it there.

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