Going into yesterday’s series finale against the New York Mets, Placido Polanco had a minuscule .553 OPS in his last 168 plate appearances dating back to August 18. As Todd Zolecki reported, he has a problematic bone spur in his elbow that will result in off-season surgery. Most likely, Tim Hudson is to blame as he hit Polanco in the elbow with a pitch back on April 21. Polanco initially stayed in the lineup, getting a day off here and there, but eventually had to spend three weeks on the disabled list starting at the end of June.
When the elbow has been bothering him — in June and in the past two months — his ability to generate power tanked. His ISO in June was a paltry .051, and in August and September just .035 and .062 respectively. He hasn’t hit more than four doubles in a month since May. Clearly, something is wrong and I’m betting it’s the elbow.
It’s easy to say, in hindsight, that Polanco should have been benched but the Phillies were also dealing with the nagging hamstring injury of Jimmy Rollins. As they learned earlier in the season, going without half of your regular infield is a tough business. Wilson Valdez and Brian Bocock are certainly no Rollins and Polanco.
Jimmy is expected to be ready as the Phillies travel to Washington. He had a pinch-hit appearance against the Mets but saw only one pitch and weakly grounded out, but by all indications he should be in the starting lineup. That gives the Phillies an opportunity to rest Polly, hopefully for the remainder of the regular season. Valdez can start in his place.
UPDATE: David Murphy tweets:
Jimmy Rollins said yesterday he’d be playing today, but he is not in the line up.
If Charlie Manuel insists on keeping Polanco in the lineup, he should at least bat him lower. Since August 18, his .219 average and .281 on-base percentage primarily out of the #2 spot in the lineup have not been helpful to the Phillies’ on-again, off-again offense. Manuel said that Rollins won’t lead off when he is reintroduced to regular playing time, so a reasonable new lineup could look like: Victorino-Ruiz-Utley-Howard-Werth-Ibanez-Rollins-Valdez-Pitcher.
Polanco’s .722 OPS — not counting his 1-for-4 performance yesterday — would be the lowest of the entire decade for the veteran infielder. Although the Phillies haven’t officially reached their goal of winning the division and clinching home-field advantage, the odds are heavily in their favor. They can afford to give Polanco a much-needed and well-earned respite for the final week of the regular season.