Answering the Philadelphia Phillies Leadoff Questions

By Brendan Harmening
Steve Mitchell – USATODAY Sports

One of the questions going into the 2013 season for the Philadelphia Phillies is how Charlie Manuel is going to arrange the batting order, especially at the leadoff spot, given the depth of base stealers on the Phillies. The two players in question are longtime Phillies lead off hitter Jimmy Rollins and newly-acquired center fielder Ben Revere.

On most teams, this would not be an issue, as Revere would get the starting nod, and the Phillies would put Rollins’ 23 home runs somewhere in the power-starved lineup that will give him more RBI opportunities.

The problem is that Charlie Manuel is not your average manager; he manages by feel and not numbers, and some times he uses his gut to his detriment. Listen to someone bring up small ball on Phillies sports talk radio and you’ll hear some of Charlie’s negatives.

Lets clarify the difference between Revere and Rollins’ 2012 statistics so it will be easier to figure out where each player belongs.

Rollins | 699 PA | 23 HR | 102 R | 68 RBI | .316 OBP | 30 SB

Revere | 553 PA | 0  HR  |  70 R  | 32 RBI | .333 OBP | 40 SB

We can look at these numbers and concluded a few things, first being that Revere is a more efficient thief than Jimmy, as he stole more bases in fewer plate appearances. We can also conclude that Revere has zero power to speak of, and that both players get on base at a similar rate.

So we can safely conclude that Ben Revere only has value to a team when there are players behind him who can deliver him to home plate, since there is no chance of Ben scoring on his own. With no pop in his bat, we can eliminate the second through fifth spots in the line up for Revere, as he is simply not an RBI man. We can also conclude that putting Revere sixth through eight robs him of his run scoring potential, as the bottom third of this depleted offensive team is unlikely to drive him home at a rate that his speed deserves.

Rollins provides more options when you look at where he fits: leadoff (check, he’s been there most of his career), second (check, not optimal though as he takes too many risks early in the count), third (check, 23 HRs earns you a shot at the three-hole in this lineup), fourth (no, that’s Ryan Howard’s until his arms fall off, he has to earn that $25 million), fifth (check), sixth (check), and he is unlikely to bat seventh or eighth.

Here is my optimal lineup for the Phillies (remember Delmon Young and Carlos Ruiz will not be on the team to start the year):

  1. Ben Revere
  2. Michael Young
  3. Chase Utley
  4. Ryan Howard
  5. Jimmy Rollins
  6. Darin Ruf
  7. Domonic Brown
  8. Catcher
  9. Pitcher

Rollins has served well in the leadoff spot, and I’d be that he’ll probably start the season there. I find it unlikely that he will finish there, and I’d hope he doesn’t start more than 50 games at the top of the lineup.

This team has too many holes, and sure, nobody really trembles in fear from a Jimmy Rollins at bat, he does have enough pop to warrant shuffling around. Rollins has never been a prototypical leadoff man anyway, and he takes hacks early in the count and tries to drive the ball out of the yard, sometimes it feels like he’s forcing it. If the man’s is going to hack, why not let him hack with ducks on the pond?

The decision to put Revere up front has less to do with Rollins, and more to do with maximizing lineup potential. Putting Revere sixth-eighth would mean that he is protected by a minor league-level player. Ben’s best quality is  his speed. The ability to steal second and come home on a single, or score from first on a double is essential to this, or any team.

There is no point of having him on first if he is protected by Domonic Brown’s career .236 average or the replacement catcher Erik Kratz. Rollins is one of the players who can drive home runners. Charlie Manuel should put him in a position to do so.

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