Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Players Who You Want Up Most with the Game on the Line
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Allow me to set the scene.
It is Game 7 of the World Series and your team, let's say the Philadelphia Phillies, is down by just one run in the bottom of the ninth. There are runners on second and third, so chances are any outfield hit is going to win the game. The problem is, the opposing team is throwing its closer and you are down to just one out, one strike remaining. This is your only chance to win the game.
And that is where the age-old, heavily debated, baseball question is asked: "With the game on the line, who do you want taking that final swing?"
Fans of every team everywhere and at every point in time have likely discussed, debated, analyzed and put some thought into who on their team they would want at the dish in a do-or-die situation.
The only problem for teams, however, is that more often than not, they really don't have a choice of who takes the final swing. In fact, unless a pinch hitter is substituted, whoever just so happens to be up is the guy who will bat.
So with that being said, there are of course reasons why you want Ryan Howard taking the final swing as opposed to Freddy Galvis, for example.
These reasons include a certain confidence factor, the all-important and hopefully ever-present "clutch gene," an overall recent body of work and of course, the ability to hit in tough situations with runners on base, an 0-2 count and an average with RISP.
Here are the five guys on the Phillies who meet most, if not all, of these requirements and really are the guys any fan would love to have at bat in the ninth inning or later with the game on the line.
5. Kevin Frandsen
Frandsen's walk-off against the Royals saved the Phillies from a prolonged losing streak.
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So, you know how it was mentioned in the first slide that teams often don't get to choose who comes to the plate with the game on the line? Yeah, well, throw that away when it comes to Kevin Frandsen.
You see, Frandsen is a rare case. Because as a pinch hitter, and a successful one at that, he is somebody that not only can come to the plate, but somebody that you want at the plate as well.
After spending parts of four seasons with the San Francisco Giants and another one with the Los Angeles Angels, Frandsen found himself with the Phillies during spring training with a chance to make the team.
He ended up spending all of 2011 climbing his way from Clearwater to Reading to Lehigh Valley posting a .309 average with 14 doubles and 43 RBI. He also only struck out 32 times in 338 plate appearances.
And that right there is one of the reasons why Frandsen is a key player to have at the plate in do-or-die situations. He makes contact. And because he doesn't strike out a lot (just 70 times in 766 career at-bats), he puts the ball in play and in doing that, there is always a chance something good will happen.
Plus, his average as a pinch-hitter (.313, 15-for-48) and his recent walk-off against the Kansas City Royals doesn't hurt, either.
If he is at the plate in the ninth, there is a good chance the Phillies are going to have a chance to win the game.
4. Carlos Ruiz
Just one of Ruiz's walk-off moments came in the 2009 World Series against the Yankees.
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As of the past three years, Carlos Ruiz has been one of the most productive and most clutch players on the Phillies' roster.
Without Ruiz and his career high .325 average, 32 doubles and 68 RBI, there is reason to believe the Phillies would have been even worse in 2012 and very likely would have finished below the .500 mark for the first time since going 80-81 in 2002.
Ruiz led the offense and did so with a fair amount of clutch pinch-hitting. In 28 pinch-hit at-bats over the past three seasons, Ruiz notched eight hits, nine RBI and two home runs.
In addition to pinch-hitting, Ruiz has come up in big moments in the past three years as well as during the playoffs. No Phillies fan will forget how he get the nickname, Carlos "Squeeze" Ruiz, as he worked a brilliantly magical play to get the Phillies the World Series Game Three victory.
Now, Ruiz isn't a great hitter when the count is against him (0-2, 1-2, 2-2), but with runners on base, in scoring position or bases loaded, Ruiz is a .300-plus hitter in each of the past three seasons. Most importantly, though, he is hitting .301 with 58 RBI with runners in scoring position and two outs.
Make no mistake, he is definitely someone fans should want at the plate.
3. Jimmy Rollins
Rollins is an asset on the base paths, but also at the plate.
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Upon first thought, Jimmy Rollins probably doesn't seem like a guy that most people would want at the plate with the game on the line. In fact, he is rather a guy you'd likely want on the base paths scoring the winning or go-ahead run as opposed to trying to get the RBI.
As the stats show, however, Rollins is a pretty capable guy at the plate in run-scoring situations as well. Last year, he hit .313 with the bases loaded and over the course of his career has actually hit pretty well with two strikes against him—including hitting .274 in 2011.
Hitting with two outs and runners in scoring position, Rollins is hitting .299 over the past three years. And with the bases loaded, he has done what he needs to do, hitting .346 in the same time frame.
The problem with Rollins, however, is that he pops the ball up too frequently, and therefore can be a bit of a liability when he needs to notch a clutch hit.
So while Rollins is not anybody's first choice, there could be worse guys to have up with the game on the line.
2. Ryan Howard
There aren't many instances when the Phillies wouldn't want Howard at the plate.
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It is probably one of the most famous quotes to come out of the 2009 Phillies' regular season and run back to the World Series.
Like so many of these "game-on-the-line" situations, there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth. The Phillies were down two with runners on first and second and Howard's count was 2-1, a favorable alternative to 1-2 or 0-2.
In fact, to put it into context, Howard hit .514 with 16 RBI and seven home runs when faced with a 2-1 count, easily his best mark in any count during the season.
Anyway, with a 2-1 count, Howard launched one deep to the outfield that just barely missed being a home run. It fell in for a double and Chase Utley sped around the bases to score the tying run.
And you find out after the game, via a quote from Cliff Lee, that Howard said to the guys on the bench in the dugout, "Just get me to the plate, boys."
That they did.
Overall, Howard blows every other player on the roster away when it comes to confidence and the desire to be at the plate during this situation. He might strike out a lot, but his power is undeniable. If you need a couple of runs, Howard is the guy you want at the dish.
1. Chase Utley
Utley is one of the best clutch hitters the Phillies have.
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There is a reason why the late, great Harry Kalas referred to Chase Utley as "The Man."
Of all the guys on the Phillies' current roster, there is none that should be at the plate with the game on the line more than Utley.
Despite having injury plagued years as of late, Utley is still one of the most reliable bats on the team. He holds his own with two strikes against him and more often than not puts the ball into play.
Utley is also a power hitter, routinely combining for over 50 home runs and doubles in most of his major league seasons.
When there are runners on base and runners in scoring position, Utley is at his best.
In fact, during his healthiest seasons, before 2009, Utley was not only one of the best on the Phils when it came to hitting with runners on, but also one of the best in the NL.
Even when making an out, Utley rarely does so without anything coming of it. He is always quick to give himself up if it means scoring a run for the team, which is something many baseball players do not think of doing.
He possesses the confidence, the so-called "clutch gene" and the ability to hit in late-inning and high-pressure situations. The only question mark is his health, and if the early goings of the season are any indication, it certainly appears that he is at least close to the player he used to be.
And if that is in fact the case, there is nobody on the roster you should want at the plate more than Utley.