Manuel Powered: The Phillies New Lineup Is Just Crazy Enough to Work

September 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

Legend has it that Billy Martin, the oft-hired and fired coach of the New York Yankees, would occasionally arrange batting orders by picking names out of a hat in an effort to break out of hitting slumps.

Such a radical tactic would never be tolerated by today’s big-money players, (imagine A-Rod strolling into the clubhouse only to find out he is hitting out of the nine-hole), in fact most of today’s managers will stubbornly stand pat and send out the same lineup day after day as their season goes down the drain.

Luckily for the Phillies, Charlie Manuel isn’t like most managers. Never known as someone to stick to conventions, Manuel rolled the dice with a new lineup for the night-cap of Monday’s doubleheader, and so far its looking like a move that could pay big dividends for Philadelphia.

Since his debut during the 2001 season, when Jimmy Rollins has been in the lineup, he has hit lead-off. He doesn’t hit for a ton of power, he runs well and steals a ton of bases—everything you want from the top of your order. Except, there is one little problem: He doesn’t know how to get on base.

For the season, Rollins is getting on base at only a .328 clip, and has seen his average dip into the low .240s. As important as J-Roll is to the Phillies’ World Series aspirations, its almost impossible to win in October with a lead-off hitter that reaches base less than a third of the time.

So Chaz took a chance and moved Rollins to the fifth spot, inserting Shane Victorino into the lead-off slot.

In the two games since, the Phillies have scored 15 runs. In those two games, the Flyin’ Hawaiian is 5-for-10 with three runs and three steals hitting lead-off. Rollins has been just as solid hitting fifth, going 3-for-7 with two runs scored and two driven in.

Two games is hardly an adequate sample size, but the switch could have a strong psychological impact on both players if the move becomes permanent. 

For Rollins, he can finally become the player he always wanted to be. He no longer has to worry about working counts, bleeding walks, and hitting the ball on the ground (things he was never very good at anyway). Instead, he can focus on being a playmaker—driving in runs, taking extra bases, swiping bags—anything that causes havoc on the diamond.

Victorino, on the other hand, finally gets to feel like part of the order. Stuck in the seven-hole most of the season, Shane was slowly morphing into a sourpuss, a far cry from his free-wheeling style that had made him a fan favorite in Philly.

Granted, with an OBP similar to J-Roll’s, Victorino is far from the ideal lead-off hitter. However, in the two games since moving to lead-off, his approach at the plate has been noticeably different, working the count and hitting line-drives as opposed to constantly swinging for the fences like he did from the bottom of the order.

As far as I’m concerned, Manuel can do whatever he wants with the lineup as long as Polanco, Utley, and Howard stay in the 2-3-4 spots. Utley and Howard are too talented to be put anywhere else, and Polanco was put on the earth to bat second for a National League team.

Other than that, the rest of the starters seem fairly interchangeable, and it’s certainly possible Charlie has a few more tricks up his sleeve.

But for now, Rollins seems happy, Victorino seems happy, the team is scoring runs again as they have taken back control of the National League East.

Now let’s just hope this means we won’t see names being picked out of a hat any time soon.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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