Phillies Lineup Shake Up
Let’s face it, Ryne Sandberg as a manager is still a mystery. After 9 seasons of the thoroughly predictable managerial stylings of Mr. Charles Fuqua Manuel, it may be slight uncomfortable for Phillies fans to not know what to expect from their manager. With his first opportunity to surprise us with a lineup in 2014, Sandberg didn’t disappoint.
Tonight’s lineup @ TEX. Ryno isn’t afraid to change the look pic.twitter.com/1HCrndWtmS
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) April 1, 2014
In just the second game of the season, Sandberg is quick to embrace platoon matchups, even though the Phillies most notoriously inept bat vs. LHP, Ryan Howard, remains in the heart of the order. Both Jayson Nix (career .602 OPS vs. RHP and career .727 OPS vs. LHP) and John Mayberry, Jr. (career .668 OPS vs. RHP and career .852 OPS vs. LHP) represent platoon candidates who should see same-side pitching as infrequently as possible. Tonight they get the start while the left-handed batting regulars, Domonic Brown and Cody Asche start the game on the bench. Whether Brown or Asche actually need a platoon partner is debatable in Brown’s case (2013 vs. LHP .724 OPS, vs. RHP .857 OPS) and remains to be seen for young Asche.
This has been covered ad nauseam, but the lefty in the lineup most in need of a platoon partner is Ryan Howard. His splits since 2012:
vs. RHP .280/.349/.491 .840 OPS
vs. LHP .172/.222/.350 .572 OPS
While Sandberg didn’t elect to remove Howard from the lineup against a lefty starter, he did knock him down a peg in the batting order from 4th to 5th. The big question is whether this is the start of gradually diminishing Howard’s appearances against lefties or whether he will remain in the heart of the lineup regardless of pitcher handedness throughout the season.
It’s possible that tonight’s lineup is significant and indicates an organizational shift under Sandberg towards maximizing the platoon advantage. It’s equally possible that it signifies very little. Perhaps Sandberg feels it’s important to get his bench guys at bats early in the season or wants to ease Asche into facing left-handed pitching or it could even just be that Domonic Brown is still suffering ill effects from the flu that swept through Phillies spring training camp. All I know for sure is, if he didn’t before, Ryne Sandberg has my attention now.