A Bottom Heavy Offense

Something (kind of) interesting happened last night at Citizens Bank Park.

Placido Polanco went 2 for 4 to raise his batting average to .254. The guy who was hitting .196 on Tuesday now has a higher batting average than Hunter Pence (.253), Shane Victorino (.241) and Jimmy Rollins (.216). That shows you how much those three have struggled lately, but it also shows you how quickly a couple good games this early in the season can spike a batting average.

Rollins, Pence and Victorino combined to go 0-for-12 in last night’s 5-1 loss to the Cubs. The rest of the lineup, excluding the pitcher’s spot, went 7-for-19.

Phillies No. 3 hitters are last in baseball with a .497 OPS. Their cleanup hitters are 19th with a .715 OPS. Rollins and Pence have primarily held those two spots, but a lack of production is a lineup-wide problem. The only two spots in the lineup, excluding the pitcher’s spot, that rank in the top half in baseball in OPS are No. 6 (13th with a .750 OPS) and No. 7 (fourth with a .865 OPS). Ty Wigginton, Laynce Nix and Carlos Ruiz have hit sixth in 12 of the team’s 20 games. Ruiz and Nix have hit seventh in 15 of the 20 games.

Nix (1.052), Wigginton (.875) and Ruiz (.796) lead the team in OPS among players with 20 or more at-bats.

Here is a ranking of the lineup’s most productive spots in the order this season, based on OPS:

  1. Seventh: .865 (fourth in baseball)
  2. Sixth: .750 (13th)
  3. Fifth: .740 (16th)
  4. Fourth: .715 (19th)
  5. First: .638 (21st)
  6. Second: .626 (21st)
  7. Eighth: .549 (26th) *
  8. Third: .497 (30th)

* – Freddy Galvis has hit eighth 14 times. He started his career 0-for-12, but is 13-for-51 (.255) since. Remove the first three games of the season and Galvis has a .650 OPS. That would rank fifth on this list.

That is a remarkably bottom-heavy lineup. It goes without saying the lower one hits in the lineup the fewer plate appearances he gets. So the most productive spots in the Phillies lineup are getting the fewest at-bats, while the least productive spots are getting the most. Charlie Manuel likes Rollins hitting third and Pence hitting fourth while Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are out. As much as they have struggled, you’re not going to substantially drop them in the order (those folks saying Rollins should hit seventh or eighth should save their breath) because they have substantial track records and, like Polanco’s last two games, you never know when they are going to break out of their slumps.

When they do you want them hitting high in the order.

So, understanding that, how can Manuel tweak the lineup? There is no simple answer. But maybe a change of scenery helps Rollins and Pence. My first inclination is return Rollins to the leadoff spot, where he has made his career, and have Pence hit third. Of course, Juan Pierre is hitting .333 with a .719 OPS, which ranks fourth on the team. (No, it is not good that role players Nix, Wigginton and Pierre rank among the top four on the team in OPS.) But that moves Pence from the least productive spot of the order in his career (he has a .651 OPS hitting fourth) to a spot where he is much more productive (an .848 OPS hitting third). Same goes from Rollins. You move him from the least productive spot of the order in his career (he has a .617 OPS hitting third) to the most productive spot (.781 OPS hitting first).

That lineup would look something like this:

  1. Rollins
  2. Polanco
  3. Pence
  4. Wigginton/Thome
  5. Victorino (.861 career OPS hitting fifth: second best spot in the lineup)
  6. Ruiz
  7. Pierre
  8. Galvis
  9. Pitcher

It’s not perfect, but it’s different. The current lineup isn’t working. So why not make a change?

Update (3:45 p.m.): Tonight’s lineup against the Cubs is Rollins, Polanco, Pence, Thome, Victorino, Nix, Ruiz, Orr and Blanton.

*

Jim Salisbury and I will be signing copies of The Rotation from 12:30 – 1:30 tomorrow afternoon on the main concourse at Citizens Bank Park! Check out the book here if you can’t make it! Here are our upcoming book signings:

  • Sunday: Citizens Bank Park, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.
  • May 10: Tredyfrrin Public Library in Stafford, PA, 7:30 p.m.
  • June 2: Citizens Bank Park, 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.

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15 Comments

Sounds good to me! I don’t know what Charlie doesn’t start Thome more! Between Wiggenton and Thome, they both could produce well.

I was at last night’s game, and said the exact same thing, afterwards. Charlie DEFINITELY needs to move Chooch up! And when is Thome ever going to start “a couple of games a week”?!

Norma: Thome wasn’t going to start against the left-hander last night, but I bet he starts against Garza tonight. I’m not sure that using Thome more is the answer, though.

And so, Thome starts and leaves the game with back tightness. Another genius move by Charlie and our front office to give this guy a “gift” of signing with the Phillies. Enough already. Retire in grace, Jim. You’re done.

Solid ideas here, Todd. I do not understand Charlies law of ” your catcher must bat 7th or 8th regardless of his numbers” and move one of your good hitters up in the lineup

It can’t hurt, but I don’t see them suddenly becoming the Rangers. This team is going nowhere this year. Been a good run, though.

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I think way too much emphasis is placed on the lineup and which “spot” individual players hit. I think the much bigger issue is not if you are 3 or 4 or 8 in the lineup, but rather who hits before and after you. That can often have an effect on how the pitcher throws to you or the likelyhood someone is on base when you’re batting. That being said, forget if Rollins is 3 or 1 or whatever – just play the hottest bats earlier in the lineup to maximize at bats. Only 1-2-3 have any type of guarentee when they’ll be hitting in the entire game.

You say “too much emphasis is placed on the lineup” then argue that the issue is the 2, 4 and 8 hitters. Which is it? “Only 1-2-3 have any type of guarantee when they’ll be hitting the entire game” if the game is a perfect game.
143 years of baseball, and you have the answer?

I never said anything about the 2,4,8 hitters. I said exactly what you said that only the 1-2-3 hitters have any guarantee Go actually read my comment before calling it out.

Andrew: I quoted your comment. Did I read it? Yeah, and I’ll never get those minutes back.

You did quote it… and then added your own analysis in this line: “then argue that the issue is the 2, 4 and 8 hitters. Which is it?” I never made that argument. I will give you my entire life savings (which isn’t much) if you can prove to me where I made that argument.

Ah, the Phillies…it’s been fun, huh? You’re only going to fall 9 seasons shy of 14. Close though, good try.

LOL!! Looks like Billyreef the casual Braves fan has a new nom du jour. What an idiot.

I think they should release Thome and even bring up a young player He is done and has a bad back. I think he struck out more than half the times and if you hit the ball,, as you are aware, something might happen.

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