A week ago, Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Ben Revere was sidelined with bruised ribs. Manager Ryne Sandberg made the decision to replace the speedy center fielder with another speed threat in Tony Gwynn Jr.
Gwynn was immediately slotted in the leadoff spot and was asked to be the table-setter. In his four starts this season, the Phillies are sporting a 3-1 record. Gwynn is currently hitting .304 following a 12-1 loss against the Colorado Rockies on Friday evening at Coors Field.
When you look at both players, you begin to think that they play the same type of game. But there are a few reasons why Gwynn deserves to start over Revere, and the reasons may surprise you.
The most important and glaring reason is that Gwynn finds ways to get on base more than Revere.
Gwynn has walked four times in his first 29 plate appearances this season, giving him a 14.3 walk percentage, according to FanGraphs.com. Revere, on the other hand, has walked two times in his first 59 plate appearances of the season, giving him a 3.4 walk percentage.
To make a comparison, Revere ranks last among position players on the Phillies roster while Gwynn is slotted behind Ryan Howard (15.2 percent) and Carlos Ruiz (14.5 percent) for the team lead.
The object of being a leadoff hitter is to get on base. That has been—and is still—the goal of the table-setter. Revere hasn't done much "table-setting" throughout his brief career, which should raise red flags for Phillies management.
Revere's career on-base percentage (OBP) is .323. What needs to be taken into consideration is that a player who doesn't walk much will depend on his individual batting average to beef up his OBP. That's exactly what Revere has been doing over the first five seasons of his brief career.
Gwynn, on the other hand, sports a .313 OBP in eight seasons in the MLB. That .313 sounds more relaxing knowing that his career batting average is .245. A player who hits for a low average and walks should be more appealing for a manager than a player who relies on one stat to get on base.
Sandberg released a statement to Stephen Gross of The Morning Call regarding Gwynn's play and why he was still in the lineup.
He's doing a nice job at the top of the order. So I stuck with the same lineup and try to keep the momentum going. I like what he's doing. We'll give Ben one more day and see if I have to use Ben off the bench again. We'll just get Ben one more extra day.
It looks as if Sandberg isn't sold on Gwynn just yet. What the manager also said in the interview should stand out the most.
"I like what Tony has done out there on the defensive side," Sandberg stated. "I would say he shows experience out there. [He has] knowledge of the hitters and good jumps."
Experience, defensive knowledge and getting good jumps. All are signs of a good major league outfielder. Obviously, a person can make the argument that Revere can't get the outfield experience without playing games there.
Just for comparison's sake, Revere's last season in the minors was 2012. However, he was called up by the Minnesota Twins as a depth move, thanks to a few injuries. Revere put his name on the map after making a few Gold Glove-quality plays that made No. 1 on SportsCenter's "Top 10 Plays." Other than that, Revere wasn't much of a polished prospect.
Gwynn spent seven seasons in the minors before becoming a major league call-up and a depth signing for a few organizations. The argument trying to be made is that Gwynn is a more polished, more experienced option for the Phillies right now.
If the Phillies wanted to get Revere the real experience that he needs, a trip to the minor leagues would certainly be a perfect fit. However, given the Phillies well-documented plan to "win now," throwing a player into the fire is exactly what has happened.
Right now, it looks like Revere will be the Phillies' center fielder for the long haul. However, do not be surprised to see Sandberg slot Gwynn in center if Revere continues to make bad plays, take bad routes and fail to get on base.
Gwynn is a capable replacement for Revere and has all of the tools to be starting for the Phillies right now.