Despite Shutout, Friday’s Lineup Worked Well

Process, not results. It’s one of the tougher principles to keep in mind, especially as you’re watching your team fall into yet another slump. The Phillies were shut out 3-0 for the second consecutive game on Friday against the Cincinnati Reds and now have not scored since the seventh inning on Tuesday. It’s the third time they’ve been shut out since May 7 and they’re averaging 2.7 runs per game dating back to April 27. Yeah, it’s been bad.

Ryne Sandberg made a change in yesterday’s lineup. Ben Revere sat for the third time in seven games. Jimmy Rollins moved back to the lead-off spot, Carlos Ruiz went up to #2, and John Mayberry, Jr. hit 7th, playing center field. Though the Phillies were shut out, the lineup worked well and Sandberg should continue experimenting with it.

Rollins is slashing .261/.354/.413. If the season ended today, he would finish with his best wRC+ (116) since 2007 (119). He’s hit for a bit of power and swiped a few bags as he’s wont to do, but the surprising part is that he’s drawing walks. Adam Dembowitz covered this phenomenon recently. Rollins’ current 12.6 percent walk rate would be a career-high and the first time he’s been in double-digits since 2010.

Revere, sadly, has not had anything to write home about lately. He’s hitting .178 since April 29 and he has drawn only three walks all season. When Revere is hitting like he did in the two and a half months prior to his injury last season — .347 with 12 walks and 17 stolen bases in 240 plate appearances — he profiles as a decent lead-off hitter. But when he’s hitting like he is now — not at all — he merits hitting eighth, just ahead of the pitcher. Revere’s current slash line, .268/.284/.297, pales in comparison to Rollins’ and to just about anyone else’s on the team.

Putting Rollins back in the lead-off spot not only gives your higher on-base guy more plate appearances and your lower on-base guy fewer, but it allows the hitters behind Rollins to see more pitches early as he works the count. Rollins saw 24 pitches in four plate appearances yesterday against Reds starter Alfredo Simon.

Hitting Ruiz second is a change many have been suggesting for years and Sandberg has experimented with it a few times. After going 1-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch last night, Ruiz now has a .388 on-base percentage, second-best on the team behind Chase Utley. Ruiz has mostly hit seventh in the lineup this season, ahead of Cody Asche/Freddy Galvis/Jayson Nix. It’s wasting his on-base skills because Ruiz would get on, but the under-performing trio at third base in the eight-spot rarely got him in, and then that was followed up by the pitcher.

Putting Rollins first and Ruiz second stacks the lineup with the team’s third- and second-best on-base hitters, respectively, for Chase Utley, who has not only been the team’s best hitter, but one of the best hitters in baseball overall — his .415 weighted on-base average ranks sixth behind only Troy Tulowitzki, Yasiel Puig, Seth Smith, Jose Bautista, and Giancarlo Stanton. On average, Rollins and Ruiz will each get on base once or twice a game, which will give Utley — and Ryan Howard and Marlon Byrd after him — opportunities to bring runners in.

Despite the shutout, the lineup worked as expected last night. Utley came to the plate with at least one runner on base twice out of four plate appearances (and he led off one inning, too). Utley went 2-for-4 but Howard, Byrd, Domonic Brown, and Mayberry combined to go 0-for-15 with a walk. Process, not results. On a different night, the Phillies would have been able to push in a few runs.

Until Rollins cools off and/or Revere starts hitting, Sandberg should give Friday’s lineup an extended look and give it a chance to turn his team’s fortunes around. There’s nothing to lose at this point and potentially a lot to gain. Their -37 run differential — third-worst in baseball — isn’t going to fix itself.

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  1. furtigan

    May 17, 2014 10:39 AM

    Picking out two months can make a lot of guys look good … Revere never should have been hitting leadoff. His career obp going into the season was something like .325. Combine that with the no power, and he always was a bat to hide, not feature.

    Personally I’d go Chooch, Utley, Byrd, Howard.

    Not like it matters; deck chairs and all.

  2. Kram209

    May 17, 2014 11:24 AM

    “Despite shutout..” How did you enjoy the play, Mrs Lincoln?

  3. Rich Baxter

    May 17, 2014 11:58 AM

    What happened to Dom Brown should be the focus here as well, he’s as ice cold as a Antarctic penguin … was he just a flash in the pan last year?

    Personally, I would have traded him at the All-Star break and set him free from the Phillies last July, his worth to another team will probably never higher than last year. The Phils sat on him for a long time and gave him every opportunity, he got hot for a month and then trailed off.

    The team ownership has to realize now that everything that Amaro has done, has been wrong and they need to pick up the pieces, bid him adieu and rebuild, and in the process save a lot of money on the outrageous salaries that were handed out by him on a few players.

    • furtigan

      May 17, 2014 02:20 PM

      If you were advocating trading brown last summer, you were the only one.

      Also, they’re still going to be on the hook for those contracts. Nobody is going to take most of these guys unless the phils cover their salaries.

  4. George Callanan

    May 17, 2014 04:59 PM

    Charlie was very patient with the line up vs. Sandberg who tinkers all the time, which approach worked better?

    • furtigan

      May 17, 2014 05:19 PM

      The one that involves having elite players in their prime, and not five years after it?

      • George Callanan

        May 18, 2014 04:06 PM

        Then start the choice beginning with last year.Charlie got fired , had a better winning percentage then Sandberg has had so far with the same players far removed from their prime.

      • Bob

        May 18, 2014 11:38 PM

        Charlie Manuel was not a top tier big league manager. Even in 2008, he had Jimy Williams running his bench who left at the end of the year. Not that Williams is the be all end all, but his absence was noticeable.

      • hk

        May 19, 2014 06:03 AM

        George Callanan,

        Last year, this group went 53-67 (.441) under Charlie before he was fired and 20-22 (.476) under Sandberg. This year, they are 19-22 (.463) under Sandberg. Now, I don’t think that this comparison shows that one or the other is a better manager, but your comment about Charlie having the better winning percentage with this group since last year is wrong.

  5. Pete

    May 19, 2014 12:24 AM

    Well, Bill. I hope you’ve been wearing your sh**-eating grin, because you deserve to. You advocate patience with this line up immediately after it’s shut out and it produces twenty runs in the very next two games. Not all directly related to Rollins and Ruiz in the top spots of the line up of course, but close enough.

    I think we need one of those White House petitions to force Executive action to get you installed as GM/Manager.

    • George Callanan

      May 19, 2014 06:15 AM

      Did not realize Charlie ‘s record was as bad as it was. My mistake.

  6. Rei De Bastoni

    May 19, 2014 08:44 PM

    Maybe even better is to have Rollins, Utley, Ruiz, Howard, Byrd, etc. Breaks up the lefties and gives Utley more ABs.

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