WS Coverage: Philadelphia’s Lineup Construction

Here’s how the Philadelphia Phillies lineup card read for the opening game of the World Series last night.

1.Jimmy Rollins, SS
2.Shane Victorino, CF
3.Chase Utley, 2B
4.Ryan Howard, 1B
5.Jayson Werth, RF
6.Raul Ibanez, DH
7.Ben Francisco, LF
8.Pedro Feliz, 3B
9.Carlos Ruiz, CA

It’s possible that nothing here jumps off the page. Rollins and Victorino are typical 1 / 2 hitters; Utley is the Phillies best hitter; Howard fits the cleanup spot perfectly, and the rest of the lineup just sort of falls into place.

However, this is what we see when we look at the handedness of the batters: S-S-L-L-R-L-R-R-R Specifically, what stands out is the fact that Charlie Manuel is unnecessarily batting two left handed batters in a row: Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

Right now, the Yankee bullpen has two left handed relievers in Damaso Marte and Phil Coke, both of whom are more than adequate against left handed batters. Joe Girardi should have no qualms about using either of these pitchers against Utley and Howard in the middle or late innings. This is the situation an opposing manager dreams of with regards to the LOOGY – you can use one of your lefty specialists to get out two batters in a row – in this case, the opponents two best hitters – and still have another one for another situation later in the game.

One of the potential arguments against this line of reasoning is that Chase Utley doesn’t show much of a platoon split and even showed a reverse platoon split this year (see graph). However, from The Book, left handed batters tend to show a platoon split of almost .027 points of wOBA. With the amount of variation present in this statistic, 1,000 PAs – roughly the amount that Utley has vs. LHPs in his career – are required to regress the observed platoon split halfway to the mean. So we should still assume that Utley will perform lower against left handed pitching.

And then consider the fact that Manuel leads his lineup off with two switch hitters. Switch hitters, intuitively, have a tiny platoon split compared to non-switch hitters. Then there’s the simple solution of merely switching Victorino and Utley in the lineup. It breaks the duo of left handed batters, and as an added bonus, batting Utley in the second spot leverages his talent slightly better. In the second spot, Utley will receive more PAs per game and will be less likely to bat with nobody on and 2 outs, as frequently happens in the first inning of games.

This decision had a minimal impact on Manuel’s Phillies in Game 1, as New York’s bullpen pitchers of either hand were ineffective. There is no reason, however, to continue to give your opponent a competitive advantage such as this, and Philly fans should hope to see a lineup change in Game 2.

We hoped you liked reading WS Coverage: Philadelphia’s Lineup Construction by Jack Moore!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.

newest oldest most voted
don
Guest
don

If he were constructing an optimal lineup out of those 9 guys I’d think the first step would be to get Rollins the heck out of the leadoff spot.

Victorino
Utley
Werth
Howard
Francisco
Ibanez
Rollins
Ruiz
Feliz

looks good to me.

fan
Guest
fan

We all know that a lineup won’t have too much effect on a full season, but why on earth would you bat Francisco ahead of Ibanez…

Alex Poterack
Guest

SLRLRLSRR

jak440
Guest
jak440

I’m with you on this one. Are you guys completely discounting the disparity in power between Francisco and Ibanez? To me, you’re suggesting that mixing up left handed and right handed hitters is the ONLY relevant factor in creating a lineup which seems kind of silly.

don
Guest
don

Ibanez career ISO: .195
Francisco career ISO: .184

Sure, Ibanez has been playing out of his mind this year. But it’s not like Francisco sucks.

Howard and Ibanez need to be split up more than Howard and Utley do.