During the off-season, I suggested the Phillies should make heavy use of platoons in 2013 — at first base, in right field, and at third base. Throughout most of the season, Charlie Manuel has opted to give the starting job at each position to one player, Ryan Howard, Delmon Young, and Michael Young, respectively. The results have been a mixed bag.
Last night, however, Manuel held the left-handed-hitting Chase Utley and Ben Revere out of the lineup against Indians lefty starter Scott Kazmir. In a limited sample, Kazmir had been much better against lefties than righties (.458 OPS vs. .973). Replacing the two were Kevin Frandsen and John Mayberry, both batting from the right side. Frandsen staked the Phillies to a 1-0 lead with a first-inning home run to left field, and Mayberry put the Phillies back on top 3-2 with a two-run double to left-center.
You shouldn’t expect Utley to get anything more than the odd game off, and Revere should still get the lion’s share of the playing time in center field. Still, though, the results show the importance of paying attention to match-ups by handedness. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to sit Ryan Howard (.600 OPS vs. LHP this year) in favor of Mayberry when a lefty starter is scheduled to face the Phillies. And though it hasn’t been the case over his career, Utley has struggled against lefties so far this year (.568 OPS), so strategically scheduling a day off for the oft-injured 34-year-old could pay dividends the way it did last night.
It’s hasn’t been often these days, but every now and then the Phillies do play smart baseball. Let’s hope a little positive reinforcement in the form of a win encourages them to keep it going throughout the season.