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.