Tuesday’s Game Showed Importance of Platoons

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.

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17 comments

  1. Tomg

    May 15, 2013 08:48 AM

    It sure worked out well last night. Gotta say, though, that whenever I see that Utley isn’t in the lineup, I kinda get a heavy feeling in my chest, wondering who’s going to produce (in the non-Amaro sense) without Utley acting as catalyst at least, if not Mr. Production himself.

    And I do this even knowing he needs days off and it’s probably best they give them to him when they facing lefties.

    I guess it’s just so great having him back …

    Small sample size, I know, but they won last night while I was drinking ommegang three philosophers beer. I ned to do more research to see if this was a significant factor (I suspect it was) but OTP beer is pretty expensive (and pretty strong – not that that matters)” so if anyone out there would like to underwrite my debauchery, I mean “research”, my motto is “Will work for (good) beer or money.”

    Or maybe readers of this blog just don’t want the Phillies to win? The choice is clear.

  2. Pencilfish

    May 15, 2013 09:49 AM

    I thought Charlie has already given Howard a couple of games off with certain LH pitchers. If memory serves me right, I think Charlie even pinch-hit (pinch-run?) for Howard late in one or two games.

  3. Richard

    May 15, 2013 10:26 AM

    He has definitely not pinch-hit for Howard. He has pinch-run for him, but that’s hardly the same thing.

  4. hk

    May 15, 2013 10:43 AM

    With the way Mayberry hits LHP’s, it would have been great if the Phils had acquired a guy like Nate Schierholtz and platooned him with JMJ in RF.

  5. Jake

    May 15, 2013 11:45 AM

    Teams don’t just “acquire” Nate Schierholtzes. Mainly because If a team has a guy like that, they don’t just let them walk. (dude’s raking by the way)

  6. SteveH

    May 15, 2013 11:48 AM

    I have a question for anyone who knows the answer. Was there an official reason why they didn’t bring Scheirholtz back? Just wondering.

  7. hk

    May 15, 2013 12:06 PM

    SteveH,

    None that I’ve seen. It probably had something to do with RAJ so astutely locking up Laynce Nix on a 2-year deal prior to last season and him not wanting to commit three roster spots to LH-hitting corner OF’s. I’ll save Pencilfish the effort and point out that I was not there, that this is just speculation and that the decision could also be blamed on an ownership philosophy.

  8. Pencilfish

    May 15, 2013 01:16 PM

    hk,

    Nate Schierholtz is a small issue that people like you keep bringing up for lack of more important issues. He would not turn this weak-hitting offense into an offensive juggernaut on his own. Jake talks of Schierholtz as if he was an All-Star. Come on…

    How come none of you are talking about the Phillies signing Zambrano today? Now, that’s something I will gladly join you and Phillie697 in criticizing RAJ for!

  9. Jake

    May 15, 2013 01:32 PM

    Maybe Zambrano wasn’t the absolute best candidate, but there’s no denying we needed another filler arm. Morgan’s still working on stuff, and honestly for sheer entertainment value, I’d rather see Zambrano than cloyd.

  10. Pencilfish

    May 15, 2013 01:56 PM

    It’s a minor league contract for Zambrano. He must be called up by July 1st, or he can ask for his release. Signing Zambrano seems an act of desperation. If Zambrano is called up, it means another starter succumbed to injury and/or ineffectiveness. At that point, one has to ask, “is the season lost?” If the answer is “yes”, then why not bring up Cloyd, Martin, Morgan, instead etc?!

  11. hk

    May 15, 2013 02:36 PM

    Pencilfish,

    It would be nice to have a decent fielding, LH hitting, corner OF with an .881 OPS on the books for ~$1.5M with a few more years of team control. However, in the end, you may be right that the Schierholtz blunder ends up being a relatively small one. Even so, it speaks to larger problems with RAJ’s decision making like him most likely being the only GM in baseball willing to give Laynce Nix 2 guaranteed years following a year in which Nix produced a .299 OBP. It was that unnecessary extra year to Nix that probably cost the team Schierholtz. The small things (e.g. giving extra years to Nix, Moyer, Ibanez, et al and squandering a draft choice when rushing to overpay Papelbon) add up.

    The Zambrano signing doesn’t really bother me because it is a minor league deal. I don’t expect to ever see him in red pinstripes.

  12. SteveH

    May 15, 2013 04:11 PM

    My issue with RAJ is that I feel like he is not getting good value in his dealings. The Lee trade really didn’t “replenish” the farm system as it was hoped to have done. The Pence deal seems to me now and at the time to make no sense. The Mets were able to get Wheeler off the Giants for.Beltran the rental and the best we could manage to get for a guy under control for another year was Tommy Joseph. RAJ needed to get more in that deal. When this mediocre season ends I hope we lose Rubes and Charlie because I don’t think I can take another year.

  13. Pencilfish

    May 15, 2013 05:17 PM

    hk,

    Delmon Young was signed to a minor league deal too, right? Without Halladay long-term and given the choices in the minors, I think Zambrano will be called up, assuming he shows in the minors that he can still pitch effectively.
    Who do you see as the 5th starter? I can’t see RAJ signing Zambrano and then selecting Cloyd over him for the 5th starter. What would be the point?

  14. hk

    May 15, 2013 08:52 PM

    Pencilfish,

    I do not believe Delmon’s deal was a minor league deal. I may be wrong, but usually you don’t guarantee $750K for a minor league deal.

    As far as the 5th starter is concerned, does it really matter at this point? If Zambrano ever pitches for the Phils, it will either be because he has rediscovered the fountain of youth or it will be a sad commentary on the state of the franchise.

  15. EricL

    May 15, 2013 11:24 PM

    At this point watching baseball games is a sad commentary on the state of the franchise.

  16. Phillie697

    May 16, 2013 10:40 AM

    @hk,

    “With the way Mayberry hits LHP’s, it would have been great if the Phils had acquired a guy like Nate Schierholtz and platooned him with JMJ in RF.” LOL :)

    @Pencilfish,

    Yeah, Carlos Zambrano is garbage. I have no idea what RAJ was thinking. I can think of any number of fringe prospects a good 10 years younger than Zambrano who will probably do just as well as him. It’s as if RAJ just sits there and ask himself when he looks at a list of names of available players, and say, “whose name on this list do I recognize, because seriously, I don’t freaking know 90% of these people.”

    And, also, no one player is going to change the offense. This is a TEAM sport last time I checked. But to have a good TEAM, the GM has to put together good PIECES. Nate Schierholtz was a very good piece, and not at all a small issue.

  17. Pencilfish

    May 16, 2013 11:23 AM

    hk,

    You’re right. Young got a major league contract for 750k with a bunch of incentive clauses.

    The Phillies will need a 5th starter next Tuesday in Miami and again on Friday May 31st against Milwaukee. Chances are Cloyd will pitch both times, and then Lannan may be ready to come back. Zambrano has also pitched out of the bullpen. It’s possible he may be brought up to replace Valdez, Durbin, Horst, etc, instead of replacing a starter.

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