Time to Worry About Polly?

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.

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15 comments

  1. Drew

    September 27, 2010 10:10 AM

    Odds of Charlie giving Polly rest are as low as Charlie not using Mad Dog in low leverage relief situations.

  2. xyz

    September 27, 2010 10:21 AM

    Even if his whole arm falls off, he’s still hitting better and fielding better than the next guy in line (Dobbs!) to take over third.

    But yeah, I would love to see Tim Hudson suffer a career-altering injury for that. I would laugh and celebrate it.

  3. B

    September 27, 2010 10:30 AM

    I read/heard somewhere that after we clinch he’s going to get another cortisone shot which in theory should help him some. (knock on wood).

    At least his defense is still very good.

  4. Jim

    September 27, 2010 10:41 AM

    Ruiz seems like the most logical person to occupy the #2 slot in the lineup. Is there any analysis showing how well guys who are in the #7/#8 slots do after a bump up to the #2 slot?

  5. twc84

    September 27, 2010 11:15 AM

    Personally, I would move Werth into the 2-hole. He’s a guy with playoff experience in that role, has good skills (speed, OBP) for the slot, and has not been as successful with RISP this year (though his numbers have improved as of late). This would allow Ruiz to move up to more of a run-producing position in the order. Here’s what I would do:

    1. Victorino
    2. Werth
    3. Utley
    4. Howard
    5. Rollins
    6. Ibanez
    7. Ruiz
    8. Valdez

    You could flip-flop Utley/Werth against a LHP if you wanted to, and you could flip-flop Rollins/Ruiz if Jimmy doesn’t hit right away.

  6. PHLPVD

    September 27, 2010 12:12 PM

    I love the idea, but it’ll be a cold day in hell when Cholly bats Ruiz second.

  7. hk

    September 27, 2010 01:04 PM

    1. Victorino
    2. Utley
    3. Werth
    4. Howard
    5. Rollins
    6. Ibanez
    7. Polanco
    8. Ruiz

    How many times do I have to see the likes of Feliciano come in and retire Utley and Howard without at least having to face or pitch around a RHB? If they separate Utley and Howard with Werth, they will partially negate the impact of LOOGY’s late in games.

  8. Hunter

    September 27, 2010 01:29 PM

    Why on earth is anyone putting Rollins as a number 5 hitter?

    His season .318 wOBA is worse than all of the regulars, to include Ibanez (.341), Ruiz (.358), and even Polanco (.321).

    So, remind me again why we would want to have this guy even sniffing the top or the middle of the order?

    And to make it even worse, he doesn’t take many pitches per at bat, and his speed isn’t even really the asset it was as he has injured himself twice this year JUST RUNNING THE BASES.

    Rollins should take over Valdez’s spot in the batting order until he proves he can do better.

  9. B

    September 27, 2010 01:55 PM

    Yeah Rollins should bat 7th or 8th period. People for whatever reason ignore what he’s done since 07-08 and just keep penciling him in to hit in the top 5 of our line up.

    “Hey lets bat our worst hitter 1st or 5th!”

  10. hk

    September 27, 2010 02:00 PM

    In addition to struggling with injuries, Rollins has hit into some bad luck this year (.249 BABIP as compared to .309 for both Ibanez and Polanco and .325 for Chooch). If Jimmy’s BABIP was closer to his career average, his wOBA would exceed Polly’s and be close to Raul’s. Jimmy also has 17 SB’s in 18 attempts in about 1/2 a season, so his basestealing does not seem to have suffered. If (and it is a big if) he plays the final 6 games, is healthy and recovers his timing, he should be fine in the 5-hole.

  11. twc84

    September 27, 2010 02:57 PM

    Hunter, not sure why you’re so angry about Jimmy or why you’re shouting. You can’t really have Rollins take over Valdez’s spot in the order when (as is the premise of this article) it is suggested that Valdez play for Polanco. So instead of overreacting, why don’t you 1. remember that we’re all Phillies fans here, and we’re on the same side, and 2. show what your lineup would look like, to open up debate, rather than a shouting match.

  12. Scott G

    September 27, 2010 03:13 PM

    I don’t understand why people suggest only splitting Utley and Howard up against a LHP starter. Why not do it all the time considering that studies have shown that the 2nd and the 4th slots in the lineup are in fact the most important when it comes to producing runs. Also, a LOOGY can be brought in regardless of the handedness of the starter (which is pretty much the only reason why we want Utley and Howard apart).

    I would also tend to expect a LOOGY to be more dangerous in a game where his team’s (TEAM A) starting pitcher were right-handed. The other team (TEAM B) would likely add more lefties to the lineup to gain those match-ups making it more likely for the TEAM A to use a LOOGY later in the game.

    Call me crazy.

    My lineup?

    Victorino
    Utley
    Werth
    Howard
    Ruiz
    Ibanez
    Rollins
    Valdez

    Best lineup that we could ever expect?

    Victorino
    Ruiz
    Utley
    Howard
    Werth
    Ibanez
    Rollins
    Valdez

    Charlie’s most likely lineup?

    Victorino
    Rollins
    Utley
    Howard
    Werth
    Ibanez
    Ruiz
    Valdez

  13. Rob

    September 27, 2010 03:31 PM

    Scott-

    Why would you bat Werth 3rd and Ruiz 5th when the same studies I’m guessing you’re referring to show that the fifth spot is more important and should be filled with a better hitter than the 3rd spot?

    Similarly, why does the “best lineup we could ever expect” have Chooch in the 2 spot and Utley in the 3 spot, when studies have shown that the 2 hitter should be better than the three hitter?

  14. Rob

    September 27, 2010 03:35 PM

    Unless you meant best lineup we could ever expect as in one you think we might actually get from Charlie, in which case I misunderstood.

  15. Scott G

    September 27, 2010 03:48 PM

    Yea, I meant from Charlie.

    I must not remember what I read about the 3rd and 5th slots. I was just going from logic thinking that the 3rd hitter would get more PAs than the 5th. I thought it was

    2=4>1>3=5?

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