Let’s Talk About the Phillies Lineup

At Beerleaguer, Mike Wisniewski goes over some lineup options for the Phillies, including putting Chase Utley in the lead-off spot. We found that to be the best option last season as well, when we did the same exercise. Also of note from last year’s post was that Revere ends up being used in the #9 spot behind the pitcher.

As this will be Ryne Sandberg‘s first full season at the helm, we don’t know his quirks yet, but he doesn’t have the same relationship with the players that Charlie Manuel did. That means he might actually move Jimmy Rollins out of the lead-off spot to lower in the order where he would be more useful. Rollins himself has stated in the past that he prefers batting lead-off, so he may campaign once more for the status quo if there is talk of moving him further down.

This is complete speculation, but a likely Phillies lineup could look like this:

Using Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for the Phillies in 2014, we can punch the on-base percentage and slugging percentage projections into this lineup analysis tool and it’ll spit out an optimized lineup. For pitchers, I used the 2013 average.

The stats:

Player Pos OBP SLG
Jimmy Rollins SS .319 .384
Ben Revere CF .326 .345
Chase Utley 2B .338 .445
Ryan Howard 1B .310 .453
Marlon Byrd RF .325 .441
Domonic Brown LF .333 .497
Cody Asche 3B .296 .388
Carlos Ruiz C .343 .406
Pitcher P .183 .189

The above lineup would be expected to produce 4.077 runs per game, or about 660 in a full season. That would be an improvement of 50 runs over last season’s output, but the lineup analysis tool can make it even better. The top lineup according to the analysis:

  • Carlos Ruiz
  • Chase Utley
  • Jimmy Rollins
  • Domonic Brown
  • Marlon Byrd
  • Ryan Howard
  • Cody Asche
  • Pitcher
  • Ben Revere

That lineup would be expected to score 4.324 runs per game, or about 700 runs in a full season — a 40-run improvement over a typical lineup, and a 90-run improvement over last year’s iteration.

The top lineup with Utley batting first would be Utley, Byrd, Rollins, Brown, Ruiz, Howard, Asche, Pitcher, Revere. It would be expected to score 4.312 runs per game, or about 698 total over 162 games — it’s marginally worse than the top-rated lineup with Ruiz in the lead-off spot.

As far as generalizations go, the 2014 Phillies should be more successful in the power department. The Phillies had the 21st-best slugging percentage as a team last season at .394, which was a few ticks under the league average .401 for non-pitchers. (Given nearly 5,700 team PA, seven points of SLG is noticeable.) Five of the Phillies’ eight regulars are projected to slug over .400, and four of them over .440.

Brown is expected to more or less repeat his power show from last year. A healthy Howard at first base will give the Phillies more power from the position than they have seen since 2011. Byrd’s SLG in the .440’s represents a 35-point improvement over last season’s amalgam.

The Phillies will continue to have problems in the on-base department, though. Only Utley, Brown, and Ruiz are projected to OBP over .330, and they only exceed that by a small margin. Asche, Howard, and Rollins all project to finish below last year’s National League average of .323 for non-pitchers.

While some of the Phillies’ on-base woes will be related to a poor batting average — for instance, Howard is projected at .238 — their inability to draw walks will be a big factor as well. Every Phillie, regular or not, is projected to draw walks below a nine percent rate. The league average for non-pitchers last season was eight percent. While Utley, Rollins, Brown, and Howard are projected in the eight-to-nine percent range, it will be dragged down by Byrd and Revere, as each is projected below five percent. Additionally, Asche is only projected at around six percent. We eagerly await GM Ruben Amaro‘s latest attack on on-base percentage.

That being said, the Phillies’ offense should show noticeable improvement in 2014. After years of decline, it will be nice to see some progress.

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