Hello, Phillies fans!
All the attention to the Big Three or H2O, let's not forget about our hitting as well. While the pitching is the new toy, the Phillies were originally built behind great hitting of Chase, Ryan, and Jimmy and later on with the addition of Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth. Without these guys, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt would be pitching elsewhere. Remember that the Phillies did win a World Series without Halladay and Oswalt so don't sell our hitting short.
Also, don't forget this guy named Joe Blanton who won the 2008 World Series Game 4 with not only his arm but his bat (remember the home run?) I don't think we should pitch Joe in the first round when you can pitch your Big Three all three games on regular rest, but in the NLCS and World Series, I say start Joe Blanton in Game 4 (unless you are behind in the series and really need a win badly) rather than force your three starters to all pitch on short rest and potentially your Game 1 starter to pitch three games in nine days (I debated this previously).
Our team obviously was hurt by injuries all throughout the season. I went to a Phillies game versus the Mets in August when both Utley, Howard, and Victorino were all out with injuries, and Ruiz had the day off. In our starting nine that day, only two players were from the 2008 World Series winning team—Rollins and Werth.
Now I am not going to say that injuries to most of our star players were good things but the silver lining is that Chase, Jimmy, and Ryan are fresher and less tired and it gave players such as Wilson Valdez, Mike Sweeney, Ben Francisco, and Greg Dobbs some playing time that can help if we need them during the playoffs.
I don't have the number of games where our regular lineup (including Rollins) all started but when they are all intact, I think the Phillies lineup is as dangerous as H2O. I mean there is something to be said about a team whose regular No. 7/No. 8 hitter is batting close to .300. Other than the pitcher, who is the weak link?
According to CBSSports.com, the players with the most number of games in each slot:
No. 1: Victorino (82), Rollins (67)
No. 2: Polanco (104)
No. 3: Utley (98)
No. 4: Howard (138)
No. 5: Werth (134)
No. 7: Ibanez (99)
No. 8: Ruiz (56)
No. 9: Valdez (64), Ruiz (58)
The lineup varied when Jimmy or Valdez played shortstop. Both Jimmy and Shane have hit the majority of their games in the leadoff slot.
So the question now is, do you return Jimmy to lead off or keep Shane there? Jimmy missed most of the month and the Phillies hit very well with Shane leading off so I am leaning towards keeping Victorino leading off.
If you decide to keep Shane at the top of the lineup, then you have to decide where to bat Jimmy. I think the No. 2-No. 5 hitters are pretty well set and Raul has played a lot of games in the No. 6 spot (although I can see them put Jimmy sixth and move Raul to No. 7). That would seem to limit it to having Jimmy bat seventh or eighth, either before or after Carlos.
Or maybe there is another off-the-wall choice. Tony LaRussa, manager of the Cardinals, has occasionally batted his pitcher eighth and a regular hitter ninth. In the AL with the DH the ninth hitter may not be the worst hitter but can be kind of a "second leadoff hitter" in front of the regular hitter.
I'm sure Jimmy is not going to be too happy but in later innings having Rollins, Victorino, and Polanco batting in front of Chase and Ryan could give us the chance to get more runners on base and more opportunities for RBI for our two big boppers.
I don't know if it's the best idea but it is intriguing. What do you think?
Actually, the biggest insult to Jimmy might not be him batting ninth but him batting eighth.
Of course just like the debates I started with the pitching rotation, these are the debates every team dreams of. A lot of teams in MLB would love to have a former NL MVP and former World Series champion bat third or fourth in their lineup, let alone eighth or ninth. Who bats where in the lineup? Is there a wrong answer?