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