Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The New Look

The Phillies new-look lineup versus right-handed pitching was introduced last night and immediately produced the desired result, a 6-5 win over the Colorado Rockies.  

Lineups are always a popular talking point in baseball, but until this morning I never realized just how many at-bats are gained or lost depending on where a batter hits.  In his Phillies Report Inquirer beat writer Todd Zolecki notes that “each spot a hitter drops in the order costs him about 20 plate appearances over a season.”  That translates to roughly 80 lost AB’s for new sixth place hitter Aaron Rowand and 20 gained AB’s for current fifth place batter Ryan Howard.  

Then, of course, there are the matters of “protecting” hitters, breaking up too many right or left-handed batters in a row, and figuring out where speed, power and contact figure in the overall scheme.

The most intriguing feature of the new-look lineup has Chase Utley hitting second.  The debate here focuses on whether Utley, already a proven RBI man, should be batting in a spot where fewer runners will be on base.  Zolecki points out that he should see more fastballs with Jimmy Rollins leading off ahead of him, a theory whose ultimate proof will depend entirely on J-Roll’s ability to get on base.  Certainly, with Lieberthal and the pitcher’s spot ahead of Jimmy, Utley is not likely to find a lot of men on base when batting second.  It is worth noting that a cursory check at Retrosheet of box scores for the Chicago Cubs showed Ryne Sandberg batting second.  He seemed to do all right as I recall.

Finally, local critics will note that David Bell is still starting in this lineup versus right-handed pitching.  You can’t have everything, even when everything else changes.


J. Weitzel said...

The Phils can get their RBIs from at least three other guys behind Utley. The difference is tough baserunning. Utley is now batting in a spot I though he would be for most of his career.

Oisín/Wizlah said...

I took a quick look at utley vs polly (taking polanco as a good no.2 hitter). Over the season last year Polly managed his usual high percentage of groundballs (about 48) and few ks (25) or walks (33). Utley's Gb% was lower (38) and Ks dramatically higher (109!), but their OBP wasn't that dissimiler. On the face of it you'd say that Utley's approach to an AB isn't as well suited to 2nd in the line-up, but any of the games I saw whilst stateside left me dreading the bottom of the order. It seemed like Jimmy came up a lot with 2 out and rowand couldn't always get the the hit or the walk. For that reason, I think its a good gamble.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with the latest lineup. Utley will not stay 2 all year. Manuel will change the lineup again (he does this too much). As long as Howard is batting no lower int he lineup than 5th, I am happy.

2006 Diary of a Mad Fan

FilliesPhan29 said...

i like the lineup, im surprised that bell and lieby are doin pretty well so far,i like the lineup now,the power is doin well and now it looks like they're producing more