The idea of splitting up Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the Philadelphia Phillies‘ lineup is preposterous. That comment would have been fair to make in mid-March, when both men looked like they were healthy and ready to roll again. As of late-April, Charlie Manuel’s latest move makes complete sense.
Until lately, Utley has generally been productive at the plate. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that his knees are the culprit behind a few recent odd mistakes and some bad at bats.
Howard has one home run. People can cite other sabermetric statistics if they need to. But, it’s easy to diagnosis the problem when a cleanup hitter (and it’s ‘The Big Piece’ no less) has only lifted one baseball over the fence. He’s not blasting any pitch in any situation.
Manuel’s initial attempt to ‘fix’ the lineup he was given by Ruben Amaro, Jr. was to move Ben Revere to the eighth-hole and allow Jimmy Rollins to revisit his familiar leadoff home. Revere was completely ineffective batting first. Rollins is the best top option the team has at the moment, which speaks to other roster issues.
Promoting Utley to the number 2 hole allows Michael Young to hit third. The Phillies’ newest third baseman has arguably been the team’s most balanced hitter. His right-handed bat also splits the back-to-back lefty sticks of Utley and Howard.
John Mayberry, Jr. became the five-hole hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates because left-hander Wandy Rodriguez was the opposing pitcher on April 24. We’ll see how Manuel adjusts the bottom-half of his lineup against right-handers during the next few days. However, he’ll soon gain greater flexibility due to the pending season debuts of Carlos Ruiz and Delmon Young.
Rollins, Utley, M. Young, Howard, Ruiz, Brown, D. Young, Revere and the pitcher could be seen as soon as Sunday, depending upon which New York Mets‘ pitcher is scheduled to start. Another dramatic change is possible if that proposed list, or one similar to it, can’t generate runs.
Ruiz could become the cleanup hitter if he hits the ball like he did last year. ‘Chooch’ would be followed by Howard, who would bat fifth.