We can debate what is a good sample and what is not, but I think everyone in the world can agree that 1 AB is not (unless it is a Derek Jeter post season AB). So often in my life does the small sample size end up biting me in the ass. The odds are usually against it working out if you need a very successful play since very successful plays happen so rarely, but we had one, and it might be what ends up being the catalyst to putting the Phils in the playoffs.
What was this AB you may be wondering (or not)?
Friday, August 22nd, Bottom of the 4th inning, 1 on and 2 outs.
R Howard homered to left, P Burrell scored.
The homerun that may have saved the season.
Sounds ridiculous to proclaim that one AB as the possible saviour to the season. Right? Well, let's think about what this AB did (and it did a lot).
The Phils' offense had been in a slump. We had heard all the numbers of how poorly they have been playing since the break. So, Charlie, finally giving in after sitting on his thumb, puts Pat third between Utley and Howard and moves Utley into the 2 hole. He had done this before, notably, at the end of last year, but then went back to the Utley, Howard, Burrell 3-4-5.
What this does is not only give our 3 best hitters a shot to have an extra AB per game, but also splits Howard and Utley so that Pat can actually have a chance to hit against a late inning lefty. While a lot of people tout that lineups don't matter much, it is often expoused from simulators who take averages and possibly don't take into account micromanaging that can have a significant effect at the end of a game. Pat splitting Howard and Utley may mean that either Pat faces a lefty in a high leverage situation or that Utley or Howard may not face a lefty (which is good for Howard).
So, how did this all come from 1 AB? Well, I kinda cheated since it is really 2 ABs that did it, but the Howard homer sealed it. With 2 outs and nobody on, Pat did what Pat does and got on base via the walk. A beutiful 10 pitch AB against Maddux who was cruising and averaging 0.7 pitches per plate appearance before that AB. Up stepped the big dog and took 2 balls and then sent the 3rd pitch (a strike) into the left field seats. A 2-run shot that put the Phils ahead enroute to a 8-1 victory. The next day they decided to keep the same lineup and blasted LA again 9-2.
What this means is that Pat is likely to bat third for the significant future and Howard behind him. Additionally, Werth will likely bat behind Howard in the 5 hole and then Victorino switch hitting and then Feliz or Dobbs batting 7th. This move gives the Phillies a ton of flexability in the late innings and strengthens the bottom half of the lineup with Victorino down there. Personally, I'd switch Vic and Rollins, but I think that they probably project to similiar numbers the rest of the year so it won't be that big of a deal.
We wouldn't be here if Howard struck out. He whiffs, Pat get stranded, the Phils get shutout and then he leads off with Ruiz the next day and all hell breaks loose. Ok, maybe not that extreme, but that homer lead the way to the Phils scoring 17 runs over the best pitching staff in the NL over the last 2 days. Charlie loves himself some small sample sizes and this time it works out in our favor as this is certainly the best move for the lineup. Let's hope he keeps it this way.