UPDATE: I guess we don’t need to worry about Girardi screwing it all up!
Consider: your favorite team has worked hard to upgrade their lineup so that, on paper, it is one of the more fearsome collections in the entire league when spring training gets underway. It had balance from the left and right side, it had players that would work the count and take a walk if needed, it had power coming from all angles and it felt very complete.
It was a good lineup.
- the left fielder is having trouble staying above the Mendoza line
- the catcher and first baseman have paltry slugging percentages compared to their standards from previous seasons
- the right fielder is now the DH and the DH is now the right fielder
- the third baseman seems to have slunk back into old habits and is struggling badly
- the shortstop(s) have struggled to drive the ball with any kind of authority
Oh, now the second baseman is hurt.
It’s been difficult to watch at times this year, the offense struggling to be consistent as the games have marched on. Now, with Jean Segura out for three months, the team not only lost one of their better hitters, they lost maybe their best current right-handed hitter on the team.
The replacements for Segura are all left-handed save for Johan Camargo, who is a switch-hitter and probably shouldn’t be a starter anyway. Bryson Stott, Didi Gregorius, Nick Maton, all bat from the port side of the batter’s box, which can lead to many different assumptions. The first is that opposing teams will load up on left-handed relievers late in the game to help neutralize not just that trio of hitters, but also the likes of Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and whatever amalgam of Mickey Moniak and Odubel Herrera choose to create on each given day. The thing with that idea is: the Phillies are actually pretty good at hitting left-handed pitching this year, much preferring to face southpaws that those from the right side.
Team v. LHP: .253/.322/.440, 20 HR, 70 RBI (598 PA)
Team v. RHP: .241/.305/.386, 38 HR, 147 RBI (1,320 PA)
So if the team actually hits left handed pitching better than right handed pitching as whole, then there isn’t a problem, right? They can play whoever they want wherever they want whenever they want.
Well, not exactly.
We know that over time, batter splits tend to even out and rebound back to their career averages. With the Phillies, there are three players with a surprising amount of success against southpaws in their careers.
Didi Gregorius vs. LHP/RHP (career OPS): .667/.762
Nick Maton vs. LHP/RHP (career OPS): .961/.619
Bryson Stott vs LHP/RHP (career OPS): .499/.325
Johan Camargo vs. LHP/RHP (career OPS): .810/.695
I know, I know, those numbers for Maton and Stott kind of defy logic, especially for two players that haven’t exactly hit the ball well in the majors. Maton’s numbers were clearly influenced by the other night’s home run against lefty Jarlin Garcia, but a 300+ point difference is nothing to sneeze at. Stott’s numbers are still way too small a sample size to make a determination (as are Maton’s, for that matter), but with the two veterans, these aren’t blips, these are facts.
With this information, lineup construction really should not matter when it comes to figuring out who is going to be in the lineup based on the pitcher. If a team has a left-handed pitcher scheduled to start, that shouldn’t mean automatic starts for anyone. The wisest thing to do is base the lineup on the Phillies’ own pitcher and adjust accordingly, whether that be with the better defensive options or who is hottest at the plate.
What the fear is is that Girardi will consistently lean on the veterans to get the job done and that might not be the worst idea. Bryson Stott has not given the team any reason to make him the de facto starter at shortstop yet this season. Maton may have had that big home run the other day, but he just arrived recently and we’ve also seen what Girardi thinks of Maton’s ability to be in the lineup regularly already in the past. Camargo has been a good glove wherever he plays, but he has also struggled of late with the bat in his hands. He might be the best defensive option at the keystone, but unless his bat starts to heat up, he might be best served as a utility player.
What might be most important to this team is the right-handed options like Hoskins, Realmuto and Bohm are going to have to pick up their production. All of these numbers for the replacement options against lefties are great, but that won’t stop teams from stocking up in game with left-handed relievers to try and get them out. With the three batter minimum rule, that might put that trio of right-handed hitters in some pretty high leverage spots, so it’ll behoove them to start delivering in those situations.
Regardless, the injury to Segura is a tough blow to any team, let alone the Phillies with their struggles. It’s incumbent on the manager to take what players he has at his disposal and put them in the best position to help the team win.
You know, since he’s had such a stunning amount of success doing so so far this year...