One of the leading narratives coming out of last year was that Phils’ manager Gabe Kapler liked to tinker with the lineup. It seemed like we could never guess which guy was going to be rested on any given day or which non-natural position Scott Kingery would be playing.
The data backs this up. Over the course of the season’s 162 games, Kapler had 95 different defensive alignments and 138 different batting orders (neither including pitchers). For the batting orders, this stacked up as slightly above average in the National League.
Obviously having many different batting orders didn’t necessarily harm teams, as the teams with the second and third best records in the NL had the most variety. But, as Phillies fans who were growing tired with Kapler’s seemingly-random changes on a day-to-day basis, we wondered if this was just part of the bargain with having a manager who fancied himself such a deep analytical thinker.
Well, so far in 2019’s super-small sample size, we’re learning that varying lineups is not something that Kapler thinks is essential to winning baseball. Just a little bit ago, the Phillies announced that they were running the same defensive lineup and batting order out for the fourth consecutive game:
#Phillies lineup tonight for Bryce Harper’s return to DC:— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) April 2, 2019
Given how dominant the lineup has been so far and how natural this order and positioning is with the new personnel this year, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
And yet, it still does. Part of it is Kapler and what he did last year. Another part of it is the continued mystery of what will happen with Kingery this year, let alone Nick Williams, and Aaron Altherr. But a big part of it is this - no other team in either league has used just one lineup so far this year.
In the NL, 3 teams have used 2 lineups, 3 have used 3, 4 have used 4, and the other 4 teams have used 5 different lineups already. The teams in that last group are the Marlins, Rockies, Dodgers, and Giants. They have been mixing it up as much as possible in the early going, with a different lineup in each game.
The Phillies? They’re the model of consistency so far, changing nothing through four games. Even though many of us thought the team would be more consistent with lineups this year than last year, I think most people would be lying if they said they thought nothing would change yet. It’s Gabe Kapler after all!
Obviously this won’t last. But how much longer does the team have with this lineup? Take the poll below to give your answer.
When will the Phillies starting lineup change?
This poll is closed
Tomorrow (next game)
Over the weekend (games 5 through 7)
The moment they don’t score 5 or more runs in a game