With pitchers and catchers reporting Monday and the full team beginning spring training shortly after, the only major change for the Philadelphia Phillies among the starting position players will be the absence of Jayson Werth.
There has been a lot of debate over who will replace Werth in the outfield and in the lineup. There has been talk about platooning right field with either Ben Francisco and Dominic Brown or Francisco and Ross Gload.
Looking at the depth chart provided by ESPN.com, Brown is the first player listed for right field.
Personally, Francisco is my favorite for winning the full-time starting position, as I believe that he can replace the run production of Werth completely, just doing so with less home runs.
Francisco can produce runs because he can drive in as many RBI, since he is a better contact hitter than Werth. The numbers of Francisco and Werth are directly proportionate to one another once playing time of each respective player is accounted for.
The Phillies website differs from ESPN, because it has Francisco listed first for right field and Brown listed third, which strengthened my favor towards Francisco even further.
Another conversation that has hit the surface regarded what the batting order will be for the team this year.
Based on split statistics, I believe that the best batting order for the Phillies will be, in order, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Ben Francisco or Dominic Brown (depending on which of the two are playing that day), Carlos Ruiz, and Placido Polanco.
This is based off of each of these players' batting history at different spots in the order. If you do not feel comfortable having slots two, three and four being left-handed batters, you could switch Polanco and Utley, but I feel much more comfortable with Polanco being at the end of the lineup than I do with Utley being there.
Of the nine different Phillies that I analyzed for this, I ranked them for each spot in the order with regards to how each player batted in that spot. Not everyone batted in each spot in the order, so not each player will be ranked in every spot.
Victorino was easily the best hitter in the leadoff spot, followed by Polanco then Rollins.
Victorino batted .276 at leadoff, whereas Polanco batted .273 and Rollins .241. The difference between Victorino and Polanco is the on-base percentage, which was .345 for Victorino and .304 for Polanco at leadoff.
Leadoff was Victorino’s second-best batting position, the fifth spot being his best. In the fifth spot he batted for .313 with an on-base percentage of .353. However, Victorino should leadoff, not only because he was the best, but because although his batting average was better fifth, his on-base percentage was only less than one percent better in that spot.
The second spot in the batting order was ranked, in order, Polanco, Utley, Victorino, and Ibanez.
Although there are four names mentioned here, the competition is really only between Polanco and Utley. Polanco batted for .303 with on-base percentage of .346, whereas Utley batted for an average of .257 with an on-base percentage of .350. So, although Utley batted for a worse average than Polanco, his on-base percentage was a little better.
Part of the reason that Utley should be batting second is because of the improvements offensively of the person that should be batting third, which is actually Utley’s best place in the order.
For the third spot in the order, Utley batted for an average of .282 with an on-base percentage of .395, but his offensive performance in the second spot is very comparable to his performance in the third spot.
The overall ranking for the third spot in the batting order is Ibanez, Polanco, Utley and Rollins, but Rollins is not really in contention with this spot.
Ibanez is an easy favorite for the third spot in the batting order. His numbers there were a batting average of .350 and an on-base percentage of .430. Ibanez is the best fit for batting third, because his batting average improved by .080 and his on-base percentage by .088 from where he usually batted. If Ibanez can maintain a .430 on-base percentage at third, he is the best option to hit there.
Ibanez is technically the best fit for batting fourth when it comes to average and on-base percentage, but I do not think that there is any chance that Howard will bat anywhere else in the lineup. Howard also has much more power than Ibanez, so Howard will be batting fourth, and everyone else will fit around him.
The fifth spot in the batting order is easily favored by Rollins.
The other contenders for that spot are Victorino and Francisco. As previously mentioned, Victorino’s best spot in the lineup was fifth, but Rollins is still easily the favorite for that spot. Rollins batted for an average of .400 with an on-base percentage of .417 and a slugging average of .700 while batting fifth, which are very impressive numbers. Rollins would easily be best fit to follow Howard in the batting order.
Rollins was also the best batter for the sixth spot in the lineup, but he is easily favored to bat fifth in the batting order.
That allows the Phillies to place Francisco in the sixth spot in the lineup. Francisco was second best in the sixth spot, batting with an average of .306 and an on-base percentage of .370.
Sixth is also where Brown batted best as well, with an average of .256 and an on-base percentage of .273. Whichever of these two players wins—the favorite according to these numbers is Francisco—will be best fit to bat sixth in the lineup. Brown was actually ranked fifth for the sixth spot, but the two players between Francisco and Brown are easy fits in other spots in the lineup.
With the seventh spot in the batting order, there really is no competition. Ruiz is easily the favorite to bat seventh.
Ruiz usually batted eighth, where his numbers were a batting average of .263 with an on-base percentage of .398 and a slugging average of .351. When Ruiz batted seventh in the lineup, he batted for an average of .337 with an on-base percentage of .407 and a slugging average of .524. His numbers are much better, except for the small improvement with on-base percentage, at the seventh spot, making him an easy favorite to bat there.
Another way that the batting order could be arranged, from first to last, is Polanco Utley, Ibanez, Howard, Victorino, Rollins, Ruiz, and Francisco or Brown, although I am not that comfortable having a potentially big run producer like Francisco or Brown at the bottom of the order.
I would feel much more comfortable with having a contact hitter with minimal power at the bottom of the lineup. It is a given that Francisco or Brown have much more power than Polanco, which is why Polanco is the best fit at the bottom of the order, keeping the order as Victorino, Utley, Ibanez, Howard, Rollins, Francisco or Brown, Ruiz and Polanco.
That is my projection for the 2011 batting order.
The players I placed in the first, third, fifth and seventh spots in the batting order were the players who batted the best in those spots in the batting order in 2010.
The players that I placed in the second, fourth and sixth spots in the batting order were those who finished second best in those spots in the rotation in 2010, and the ones who finished best in those respective spots were best fits in one of the other spots in the lineup.
The only legitimate way that I could see the lineup being better would be to have the pitcher bat eighth and have Polanco bat ninth to have him start the wrap-around of the lineup.