John Perrotto detailed the lineup changes for tonight’s Game Two. Just to take a look at them in a bit more detail…
If you combine the use of Rocco Baldelli tonight with the use of Ben Zobrist yesterday, you can conclude that Gabe Gross is something of an unperson now. Joe Maddon doesn’t seem to want to use Baldelli on consecutive days, so that left him choosing between Zobrist/Baldelli or Baldelli/Gross in these two games. That he chose the former, which entailed playing an unexperienced Zobrist in right field, does not bode well for Gross’ status. It will be interesting to see what Maddon does in Game Three; using Zobrist against Jamie Moyer would indicate Baldelli is starting Game Four against Joe Blanton, and confirming the burial of Gross.
Fernando Perez might be the best combination of all these talents, but is not under consideration for an increased role.
As mentioned in the linked piece, Maddon cited Brett Myers’ reverse split as a reason for the use of Baldelli tonight. Left-handed batters hit just .235 against him, righties .293. However, that’s entirely a balls-in-play thing. Myers had a much higher walk rate against lefties and similar isolated power against both sides. Against lefties, he allowed a .283 BABIP; against righties, .323. His “backwards” split is a statistical fluke, not a reflection of his skills.
Supporting this are two things: one, Myers’ skills. He’s a fastball/breaking ball pitcher, the type who typically has a normal platoon split, and his arm slot isn’t unusually over-the-top in a way that would change that. (Think about Mike Mussina, as a counter-example.) In his career, Myers has had better strikeout rates and fewer walks against lefties, although he does give up slightly more power to them. At best, he’s platoon-neutral.
Maddon’s decision to go Zobrist/Baldelli because he wanted Baldelli playing against Myers simply isn’t a good one. It’s based on the wrong information.
Charlie Manuel is playing Pedro Feliz at third base, DHing Greg Dobbs and benching Matt Stairs. This is based on in part on wanting Feliz’ glove on the field, which is defensible.
“I like Feliz’s defense at third base,” Manuel said. “I know that Dobbs hasn’t played on turf for two years.”
The other plank in the platform is Stairs’ career stats against Shields, which isn’t a good reason on which to base a decision. Three-for-20 isn’t enough information as compared to the career numbers of Stairs and Feliz. Given that the only player Manuel might pinch-hit for is Carlos Ruiz-and doing so with Stairs would probably cause a pitching change-Manuel is essentially forfeiting three at-bats of Stairs for Feliz’ glove. The Phillies are not so productive right now that the tradeoff makes sense, especially when you think about the right-handed strikeout pitcher on the mound for them tonight.
Once again, Manuel has Chase Utley and Ryan Howard batting back-to-back. Now, I’ll repeat what I said on BPR: the Phillies’ chance to win tonight’s game is in the first five innings, and by that, I mean hitting some longballs off of Shields in that time. They have to go deep to score, and tonight could well be the night Howard gets tracked. The man eviscerates right-handed pitching. Once 15 outs are up, though, the chance that Howard gets to face a right-hander plummets. By batting Utley directly in front of Howard, Manuel continues to make the tactical decisions easy for Maddon. It would be trivially easy, completely consistent with the players’ skill sets, to switch Utley and Jayson Werth (batting second) in the lineup. That one move won’t stop Maddon from targeting the two lefthanded batters, but it will create a cost to doing so.
By the way, if you had “yes” on the “Can Los Lonely Boys stretch the anthem longer than the Backstreet Boys did?” prop, collect your winnings.