The Phillies don't take the field on Opening Day for another 71 days (not that I'm counting), but it is never too early to think about the Phillies 2013 starting lineup. It certainly is not too early for Charlie Manuel, who already discussed the lineup at the Phillies holiday party on Dec 11.
Here are the parameters for this discussion. We are looking at the lineup for the first 25 games before Chooch returns from his suspension and assuming Domonic Brown will play right field and Darin Ruf will play left. I don't see Charlie using anyone other than Utley and Howard at third and fourth, so let's eliminate that option, as well.
Projecting the Phillies lineup is not as easy as it might seem considering the only two givens in the batting order are Utley at third and Howard at cleanup. The leadoff spot will likely go to Jimmy Rollins or Ben Revere, but beyond that the lineup discussion gets a bit murky.
Let's talk about the possibilities at each lineup spot before exchanging lineup cards.
As I mentioned, the competition for the first spot in the lineup is between Rollins and Revere. I have campaigned for several years to remove Rollins from his perch due to his fairly low batting average and infatuation with pop-ups. Ben Revere hits for a higher average, 88% of his hits are ground balls, he is faster than J-Roll, and is adept at bunting. But, as I pointed out on Thursday, Revere is not refined enough as a hitter and may not be ready for the pressure of seeing a pitcher first. Besides, arguing for Revere as the leadoff hitter is pointless since you know Charlie is going with Rollins.
Ben Revere and Michael Young are the most obvious candidates to bat second. Similar to the leadoff hitter, the job of the #2 hitter is to get on base, create some first and third situations, and set the table for the middle of the lineup. Neither of them has much power, but that is not a major concern with the second batter (think Polanco).
Utley third; Howard fourth. End of discussion.
Anyone besides Utley and Howard could take this position. We'll get to who bats where a little later.
Go with Revere or Young, right? Not so fast there, Bucko. Revere and Young might be the easy choices, but there are complications with both of them.
Reasons not to bat Ben Revere eighth
In many ways, the eight hole is ideally suited for Ben Revere. There is little pressure, no need for power, and Revere's speed makes it easier for pitchers to sacrifice him to second. The major problem is that he has not shown the patience to bat number eight. Think of how opposing pitchers approach the #8 guy. They aren't worried at all about the pitcher on-deck, so they will throw a lot of junk pitches slightly out of the strike zone and hope the hitter chases.
In order to hit in that position, a player must be willing to take a walk and needs the discipline to lay off the junk pitches. With a walk rate of 5.4% which is far below the major league average of 8.0%, pitchers might eat Revere alive. If Charlie Manuel hits Revere eighth, he might be setting up a young player to fail.
Reasons not to bat Michael Young eighth
Michael Young, on the other hand, has a better 6.6% walk rate and the patience to bat eighth. But I have a hard time envisioning Charlie Manuel asking a 7-time all-star who was just forced out of Texas to bat eighth. For now, let's assume that it is Revere or Young and see how the lineup shapes up.
Lineup with Young eighth:
1. Jimmy Rollins (S)
I love the speed up top, but the concern is the letters in parenthesis. This lineup has three lefties in a row 2-3-4 and three righties out of the four final slots. Charlie never liked bunching up his lefties, so don't bet on seeing this lineup on April 1st.
Lineup with Revere eighth:
1. Jimmy Rollins (S)
The top four look really nice and it is a balanced mixture of righties and lefties towards the bottom. Charlie could also switch Ruf and Kratz. This is probably the most likely Philies lineup.
Of course, this still presents a problem with Revere batting eighth, which is why I would propose the following lineup:
1. Jimmy Rollins (S)
Try not to fall off your seats, but what if the Phillies bat Domonic Brown eighth? Sounds crazy, but it makes a lot of sense. Domonic Brown has the patience needed to bat eighth. His impressive 10.4% walk rate is second only to Chase Utley in this lineup and his 4.03 pitches seen per plate appearance would have tied him for 11th in the NL if he had enough PA to qualify.
Brown's speed is another nice bonus for the pitchers batting behind him attempting to sacrifice him to second. Plus, batting Brown lower in the lineup also alleviates some of the pressure.
Poor Charlie Manuel. There are way too many lineup possibilties for a guy who turns 70 next year. Hopefully he can reminisce on the good old days with Werth, Victorino, and Burrell because those days are long gone. Good luck, Chuck.comments powered by Disqus