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The Phillies’ playing time rotation is working perfectly

How can the Phillies get enough playing time for 9 starting-quality players in 7 spots? By doing exactly what they’re doing.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since the Phillies signed Carlos Santana, it was clear there was a major problem in the outfield - except during a game in an American League park, only three of Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, and Nick Williams could play at the same time.

At the end of spring, when the Phillies decided to keep rookie Scott Kingery on the roster to start the season, the problem got even worse. Like the outfield, there were now five infielders for four spots - Santana, Kingery, Cesar Hernandez, J.P. Crawford, and Maikel Franco.

Assuming the Phillies were always going to give Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp a 60-40 playing time split at catcher, and Pedro Florimon was the team’s one true bench player, the team had a challenge with its roster - get 9 starting-quality players enough playing time across 7 fielding positions.

Many folks have been skeptical of this, arguing that it’s impossible for players to get into a rhythm if they aren’t in the lineup every day. We’ve already seen Williams, Herrera, and Franco publicly express some displeasure with the rotation. We have no idea what others have said behind closed doors.

But while this situation has its critics, so far, the team seems to be handling it incredibly well. While the team is middle of the road in fWAR in the NL, it has scored the third most runs in the early going. That, plus the team’s 9-5 record after a 1-4 start, and it’s hard to criticize much of what the team is doing right now.

Beyond the results though, let’s look at the playing time distribution. Here’s a chart of each non-pitcher’s plate appearances so far as well as what each player is projected to get over the course of a full 162 game season. (The percentage listed here is percentage of non-pitcher plate appearances.)

Projected Plate Appearances

Cesar Hernandez 64 740 12% 0.853
Carlos Santana 63 729 12% 0.581
Rhys Hoskins 57 659 11% 1.055
Odubel Herrera 54 625 10% 0.817
Scott Kingery 54 625 10% 0.855
Maikel Franco 44 509 8% 0.769
Aaron Altherr 42 486 8% 0.464
J.P. Crawford 41 474 8% 0.620
Jorge Alfaro 36 417 7% 0.618
Nick Williams 35 405 7% 0.739
Andrew Knapp 24 278 5% 0.482
Pedro Florimon 10 116 2% 0.633

Keeping in mind that hitting one position higher in the lineup is worth about 18 or so more plate appearances per year, does anyone really have a problem with how Gabe Kapler has juggled this so far? Right now, the Phillies best overall hitters are getting the most plate appearances, with Hernandez, Santana, Hoskins, Herrera, and Kingery all on pace to get more than 600 plate appearances this year. It’s hard to argue with that.

The rest of the guys are getting less, but are we really upset about that? Franco will be slightly above 500 plate appearances. Of course, if he can get back to his rookie year level of play, that could go up. But for now, giving him just about 500 plate appearances over the course of the year sits well with me, especially if Kingery keeps up what he’s doing.

Getting between 400 and 500 plate appearances are Crawford, Williams, and Altherr. The only one here that makes me a bit concerned is Crawford. I’d like to see him in the 500 to 550 realm at the end of the year. Again, if Kingery runs into trouble, Crawford’s plate appearances should go up. But is this such a terrible problem to have if Kingery keeps hitting?

All in all, the Phillies had a big problem going into the season, and so far, Kapler is handling this really well. The best players are getting the most plate appearances, but everyone else is getting their fare share too. No one other than Florimon is riding the bench on a regular basis.

And the results speak for themselves. Not everyone is hitting well, but everyone is getting a chance to do so, and the team is scoring runs and winning. Plus, let’s not forget the value of rest over the course of a long season. There’s a good chance that the Phillies are going to be in better shape in September because of this rotation.

Of course, prolonged slumps and injuries could derail all of this. But so far, from where I sit, it sure seems that Kapler is handling this roster puzzle almost perfectly.