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 starting lineup vs. LHP Martin Perez via MLB.com‘s Todd Zolecki:

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.

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9 comments

  1. Dan

    April 01, 2014 05:34 PM

    I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on Howard since Ruf is on the DL (though it would make more sense to play Mayberry for Howard than for Brown, wouldn’t it?). But if Ruf returns from the DL and isn’t starting against lefties, then it’s time to … I don’t know, collectively shake our heads on Twitter or something.

  2. younglegs

    April 01, 2014 06:06 PM

    Don’t forget the benefit of having Nix & Hernandez’s glove/range out there with the sinker baller on the mound.

    Good 1st step to eventually move Howard to the bench v. lefties. Sit Dom while he is “sick” and still trying to find his stroke. I just wonder why they changed his stance this year – slightly narrower & slightly more open – it’s not working so far.

    What does Ruiz have to do to get some respect? He should be next to Byrd v. lefties.

    • EricL

      April 02, 2014 11:52 AM

      Utley has probably lost a step but has been an elite-level fielder for the majority of his career. I’m not convinced Hernandez is in any way an upgrade in the field.

  3. mark66

    April 02, 2014 12:00 AM

    I don’t mind the changes. How can they hurt? We weren’t doing anything positive keeping the same as before. Howard has not hit effectively for a long, long, long time. He needs to earn it back. If he can’t then put him where Sandberg sees fit.

  4. Brad

    April 02, 2014 08:35 AM

    There is no way that that says “Hernandez” on that lineup. Reads more like “Herridez.”

  5. mark66

    April 02, 2014 05:15 PM

    Revere getting picked off 2ND base in last nites game probably cost them the game. This was a rookie mistake, a bonehead play. I hope he gets fined accordingly.

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