Profiling the Philadelphia Phillies' Projected 2009 Lineup

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Profiling the Philadelphia Phillies' Projected 2009 Lineup

Once the Philadelphia Phillies had gotten to the MLB postseason because of stellar pitching, their lineup won the World Series by consistently socking the ball all over the field

That roster from 2008 has remained intact, except for Raul Ibanez replacing Pat Burrell in left field. The starting lineup now includes Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Pedro Feliz, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth.

Ryan Howard brings 30-home runs-per-year power, and then some. His power makes him a feared opponent for pitchers late in games, which often means that he gets an intentional walk. This provides the chance for the fifth hitter (my prediction for this spot is Victorino) to make something happen. He also drives in a lot of runs.

The downside to Howard is his size and swing. His 6'4" frame forces him to deal with a gigantic strike zone, making him prone to striking out, and his 255 pounds cause him to be a slow base runner. 

Howard has a stand-up swing, which means it takes him longer to execute a full swing because he has to crouch and cock the bat as well as bring it forward while the pitch is in the air on the way to the plate.  As a result, he often either hammers the ball or strikes out.

Howard will probably stay in his usual cleanup spot in the lineup.

Chase Utley is a great offensive weapon—he has power, intelligence, and one of the most compact swings in the majors, and he can spray hits all over the field.  But he's also not the most disciplined or patient hitter, and he tries to pull the ball too much.

While not a bona fide power hitter, Utley can still knock 30 balls out of the park in a good year.  But because he's 30 years old heading into the 2009 campaign, his ability to hit 30 or more home runs again is in question.  Utley can also hit doubles aplenty, and he usually does even when he hits the ball deep but not out of the park (which is hard because of how small Citizens Bank Park is).

But unlike Howard, Utley couples power with hitting for average.  He finished 2008 hitting .292. 

Because he hits second in the lineup, Utley doesn't get the chance showcase his speed by stealing bases as often as Jimmy Rollins, Philly's leadoff hitter. But the fact that he's fast—and intelligent—on the base paths stands, and it shows because he scores a lot of runs.

Utley's swing one of the most compact in the majors. Because of that he can get around on just about any pitch. The trick for him is patience and discipline—he's almost as prone to strikeouts as Howard because he goes after bad pitches or swings before the pitch gets to the plate too often.

While his swing is compact and quick, it's also low, and this leads to a lot of fly-outs and pop-ups.

Another issue with Utley is that he pulls the ball too much. As a result pitchers can often try to get him with outside fastballs and change-ups, in addition to sinkers for right-handers and sliders for left-handers. This is the reason why Utley often hovers around .300 but can't surpass it by much.

Utley will likely be the second hitter in the lineup in 2009.

Jimmy Rollins isn't the best hitter. 

His average is better than others, but it's not the highest in the majors by any means.  He doesn't hit a lot of home runs because he doesn't have much power, and his swing is too compact. He doesn't drive many runs in because he leads off, and there usually aren't many men on base when he bats. He doesn't score many runs either, likely because when he comes to bat there are already one or two outs against Philly.

But when he does gets on base, watch out. Rollins routinely takes extra bases, and other teams know he's a threat on the base paths. But opponents still don't stop him much.  He steals a ton of bases, and uses his demon speed to stretch singles and doubles into triples when the defense makes a mistake.

Rollins will likely bat lead-off again this year.

Pedro Feliz starts because he's clutch at the plate. If the Phillies need someone to make a crucial play late in the game, they call on Feliz. He's not a particularly good— or well rounded—player, but every team needs a player who can convert in pressure situations, and that's exactly what Feliz does.

Feliz should hit in the seventh spot in the lineup.

Raul Ibanez is an excellent hitter who does just about everything you could ask.

He consistently makes quality contact with the ball, and because of that Ibanez maintains a solid average. Since 2002 he has batted under .290 only twice (and he finished one of those years hitting .289).

Ibanez has enough power to surprise you with a home run or a few doubles.  But his lack of speed keeps him from getting many triples.

He brings runners in scoring position home more often than not. I don't know about you, but when I think of guys who knock a lot runs in, I don't think of Ibanez. But he has averaged about 113 RBI in the last three seasons. He also had 103 RBI in 2002, the first year he played more than 100 games.

Unlike several of his teammates in the Phillies' starting lineup, he doesn't strike out much, either. Ibanez struck out only 110 times last year, and he has never struck out more than 115 times. In addition, he's struck out 100-plus times only twice in his career—last year and in 2006.

Ibanez should hit in the No.3 slot in Philadelphia's lineup.

Shane Victorino, like Ibanez, keeps up an excellent average, never strikes out, and has superb speed. 

A rising star, Victorino has finished with an average below .285 only twice (one was his rookie season) in his budding career.

But Victorino's main weapon is his ability to scoot. He's always threat to steal; he stole 36 bases last season. He knows how to run bases effectively, and he goes all-out on the base paths.

But perhaps his greatest strength is his discipline. Victorino struck out only 69 times in 2008, and that's no coincidence. 

Victorino should hit fifth in 2009.

Jayson Werth is the guy who can surprise you by doing just about anything when you don't expect it.

He can hit homers more than you might think—he smashed 24 dingers last season. Only 11 of them were hit at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies' tiny field.

He also steals bases when the pitcher doesn't expect it because he's not Rollins, Utley, or Victorino. In 2008 Werth stole 20 bases, which isn't bad for someone who hit in the bottom half of the lineup. But for that same reason—hitting in front of some of Philadelphia's worse hitters—he didn't score a ton of runs (only 73).

Werth exercises nice plate discipline. His swing isn't the most compact or the quickest, but he still only struck out 119 times.

Werth should bat eighth in 2009.       

Carlos Ruiz is a highly disciplined hitter who never strikes out.  He was likely the only player in the majors last year who played more than 100 games to have forced more walks (44) than he struck out (38).  He can keep at-bats alive and make pitchers throw more pitches than they want to.

 

 

The Philadelphia Phillies' lineup has some of everything—speed, power, hitting for average, discipline. As good as last year's lineup was in the playoffs, it struggled in the regular season. This year's lineup should get the job done all year.

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