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The argument for batting Rhys Hoskins second and dropping Jean Segura down in the order

It’s not a demotion for Hoskins or Segura, it’s out of respect for their individual skillsets.

Cincinnati Reds v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images

The exact batting order the Phillies use isn’t going to matter that much. The team has a great lineup, and it will remain great no matter who’s hitting leadoff, cleanup, or anywhere else.

Okay, great. Now that that’s out of the way, I can spend the rest of this piece discussing the minutiae of the Phillies batting order, because it’s fun, and because it does matter, even if it doesn’t matter that much.

Specifically, the guy I want to talk about today is Jean Segura. A lot of people have been drafting up their potential lineups for the Phillies recently, and it seems like almost everyone wants to see Jean Segura hitting second. Throughout his career, Segura has hit second more often than any other lineup spot. Since he joined the Phillies in 2019, he’s racked up more plate appearances in the two-hole than anyone else.

And yet, Segura has only hit second in half his plate appearances for the Phillies. In 2019, he had over 100 PA in the five-hole, and in 2020, nearly all of his plate appearances came batting fifth.

When Jean Segura isn’t batting second, that spot has most often gone to Rhys Hoskins. In fact, in 2020 and 2021, Hoskins had the majority of his plate appearances in that spot.

So, there is already something of a precedent for the batting order I’m about to suggest.

  1. Kyle Schwarber
  2. Rhys Hoskins
  3. Bryce Harper
  4. Nick Castellanos
  5. J.T. Realmuto
  6. Jean Segura
  7. Didi Gregorius
  8. Alec Bohm
  9. Matt Vierling

This isn’t your traditional batting order. You don’t usually see so many slow-moving power hitters at the top. But I think this lineup gives the Phillies the best chance to win ballgames.

Here are the three basic principles I used to draw up this order.

  • The lineup will be built around Bryce Harper.
  • The best offensive players should get the most plate appearances.
  • The best hitters (i.e. high batting average) should get the most plate appearances with RISP.

The lineup will be built around Bryce Harper

The Phillies batting order will be built around Bryce Harper, that much is certain. He is the reigning MVP and one of the best pure hitters in the game.

Harper will bat third in the order, where he had more than 90% of his plate appearances last season. That much is all but certain.

To maximize the order around Bryce Harper batting third, this is what the Phillies need:

1. Two players with high on-base percentages to hit first and second, so that Harper has men on base when he comes to bat.

Other than Bryce Harper himself, Schwarber and Hoskins are projected to have the highest OBPs on the team, according to ZiPS, Steamer, and PECOTA.

2. A strong power bat to hit in the cleanup spot so that Harper actually gets pitches to hit.

This could be Hoskins or Schwarber, but they’re already at the top of the lineup, so Nick Castellanos is the obvious choice.

3. Good hitters in the fifth and sixth spot so that someone will be able to drive in Harper and the cleanup hitter.

The last two above-average hitters on the team are Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto, so they’ll be tasked with driving in Harper and Castellanos. I think Realmuto will be the slightly better offensive player, so I put him fifth.

The best offensive players should get the most plate appearances

This isn’t a knock on Segura or Realmuto, who are both good hitters, but Harper, Castellanos, Hoskins, and Schwarber are a tier above them (at least). When those four get hot, each one of them can single-handedly carry an offense.

So, it stands to reason that you’d want those four to get the most opportunities to hit.

If Jean Segura is batting second, that means one of those guys is batting fifth — probably Hoskins. And that means Segura would get more plate appearances than Hoskins.

In 2021, Phillies five-hole hitters had 682 PA, while two-hole hitters had 733 PA. That’s a 51 PA difference. It’s not a whole lot, but it’s not nothing either.

FanGraphs Depth Charts projects that Hoskins will produce 0.159 wRC per PA, while Segura will produce 0.130 wRC per PA. Over 51 PA, that’s a difference of 1 or 2 runs. Like I said, it’s not much, but in the right moment, 1 or 2 runs can make all the difference.

The best hitters should get the most plate appearances with RISP

But we can’t make a batting order just by putting the better overall hitters higher. It rakes more nuance than that. All else being equal, Rhys Hoskins is the more valuable offensive performer. But we’re not operating in a vacuum here. So, what if Jean Segura’s skillset is better suited to the two-hole?

Segura has the traditional makeup of a number two hitter. He’s a small guy who makes a lot of contact, and while he’s not always particularly fast, he can run with maximum effort when he needs to. However, while we’re accustomed to putting high batting average types in the two-hole, I think that skill is actually more valuable lower down in the order.

As I said right off the top, I’m not trying to “demote” Segura. He’s a really good hitter, and when it comes to batting average, he’s probably the most skilled hitter on the team. For that reason, I want him hitting in a spot where he’s more likely to have runners in scoring position.

It’s the same reason why Bryce Harper won’t bat leadoff. Leadoff hitters get the most plate appearances, and in theory, we should want to maximize Harper’s plate appearances. But we also want Harper to come up with runners on base.

In 2021, batters who hit sixth in the order came up to the plate with RISP in 25.2% of their plate appearances. Those who hit second only came up with RISP in 22.2% of PA. So, while six-hole hitters receiver fewer plate appearances overall, they actually end up with more PA with RISP. I’d rather give Segura those extra PA with RISP, because he’s more likely to get a hit.

Furthermore, because two-hole hitters get more PA overall, they still wind up with more PA with runners on base — just not with runners in scoring position. That means if Hoskins hits second and Segura hits sixth, Segura would — in theory — get more PA with RISP, but Hoskins would get more PA with runners on base. That’s a good arrangement, because Hoskins is the better power hitter, so he’s more likely to drive runners in from first.

Philadelphia Phillies v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

And there you have it. That’s how I convinced myself Rhys Hoskins should be the two-hole hitter instead of Jean Segura. I’d rather give Hoskins more plate appearances overall, and I’d rather Hoskins bat right in front of Bryce Harper, but it’s Segura who I want at the plate if there’s already a runner on second or third.

Batting order doesn’t have a huge impact — it’s the difference of a few extra plate appearances here and there over the course of a very long season — but this year, a couple of one-run games against the Mets and Braves could decide the NL East. Joe Girardi will need to find any and all ways to give his team every possible advantage, and this is one of them.