Analysis

Behind Revere, New-Look Lineup Shows Patience

Revere had the at-bat of the night against Tim Hudson.  Can he keep it up? (AP)

Revere had the at-bat of the night against Tim Hudson. Can he keep it up? (AP)

For a second, forget about Chase Utley spraying line drives all over (and out of) Turner Field last night.  It was a satisfying sight, for sure.  But equally fulfilling was the sight of Tim Hudson, prior to Utley’s two-run single, laboring in the fifth inning.

Hudson threw 90 pitches to 21 batters over the course of 4.1 innings, which breaks down to 4.28 pitches per plate appearance for the Phillies.  That is an impressive number.  Yes, injuries stripped the Phillies of plenty of power and production last season.  Equally as important, however, was that those injuries, as well as certain personnel, made the lineup eminently easier pitch deep into games against.

That is why I mention the importance of Hudson laboring prior to Utley’s fifth-inning knock.  Even if the Phillies hadn’t capitalized in the fifth, Hudson was undoubtedly on his way out of the game shortly thereafter.  An idea made famous by Billy Beane and then brought to the big stage by the Yankees and Red Sox, getting into the opponent’s bullpen early should be the goal of every offense over the course of a season.  Mission accomplished for the Phillies on Monday night.

For the better part of three innings, Hudson was in cruise control.  He was getting ahead (10/11 first pitch strikes) and putting Phillies hitters away (11 hitters faced through three).  But the Phillies gradually raised his pitch total from 13 in each of the first two innings to 19 in the third, 21 in the fourth and 24 in the fifth before he was yanked in favor of Luis Avilan.

The non-Utley highlight of the night for the Phillies was a gritty 11-pitch at-bat from Ben Revere that included five foul balls and resulted in a walk despite Revere initially falling behind 1 and 2.  It was the type of at-bat Phillies fans have longed for from their leadoff man since the days of Lenny Dykstra.  To be fair, in his two years as a starter in Minnesota, Revere actually saw less pitches-per-plate-appearance than Jimmy Rollins normally does.  But at only 24-years-old, last night was certainly a good debut in red pinstripes for the speedy centerfielder.

Revere’s refusal to let Hudson off the hook brings up a larger point.  Over the last few years, we’ve heard plenty from Charlie Manuel about changing this team’s approach at the plate.  As we’ve seen, it is a difficult thing to do when your roster is chock-full of established veteran players that are set in their ways.

Love them or hate them, the departures of Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth made this lineup infinitely easier to slice through for the right pitcher on the right night (see Chris Carpenter, October 2011).  From a patience perspective, they were an elite duo.  Werth was (and still is) routinely among the league leaders in pitches seen (career 4.45 P/PA) and Burrell was no slouch himself (4.20).  Last year, only Ryan Howard (4.21) and John Mayberry Jr. (4.04) saw at least four pitches per plate appearance among Phillies regulars.

Replacing Burrell and Werth with Raul Ibanez and Hunter Pence, and not making adjustments elsewhere, made this lineup less patient and more prone to dominant performances (again, Carpenter).  Combine that with the deterioration of the bodies and abilities (and therefore production) of Utley and Howard and you have an offense that gradually went from elite (892 runs in 2007, 2nd in MLB) to mediocre (684 runs in 2012, 19th in MLB).

Between 2007 and 2009, the Phillies averaged 217 home runs per year. Between 2010 and 2012, that average dropped to 159.  Those numbers are often pointed to as the culprit for a declining offense, and rightfully so.  But over that same time, removing pitcher at-bats from the equation, the lineup’s walk rate also plummeted, from 10.17% in 2007 to 7.57% in 2012.  Their P/PA also dipped, from 3.88 to 3.79.  That is no coincidence.

The good news is the Phillies have a chance to be better this season.  It seems that Ruben Amaro Jr. learned his lesson; if you’re lineup won’t change, change your lineup.  Replacing Pence (3.77 P/PA, 7.3 BB%) with Domonic Brown (4.05, 10.5%) and Placido Polanco (3.46, 5.4%) with Michael Young (3.77, 6.6%) makes this lineup more patient.  Add in a healthy Utley and Howard and a spunky Revere, and they’re in much better shape than they were a year ago, when their opening day lineup featured journeyman Ty Wigginton and Freddy Galvis making his major league debut.

It was only one game, but the lineup’s makeover produced results last night.  So far, so good… at least for the first five innings.  Next up for the Phillies; duplicating that performance against their opponent’s bullpen.

36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Ken Bland

    April 2, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    That’s a terrific read.

    I’d assume the Twins have effective coaches under Gardenhire, but maybe the message clicked with Revere with ex-hitter Charlie, and the 2 man tandem lined up as hitting coaches.

    • Shine Box

      April 2, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      Never understood why Charlie got the tag as a hitting guru. He certainly hasn’t done a lot to improve Jimmy, or JMJ and others. Chase and Ryan could already hit when he got here.

      • Chuck A.

        April 2, 2013 at 4:43 pm

        When Charlie took over in 2005 Ryan Howard only had 39 MLB at-bats and Chase Utley had just 401 spread out over two seasons. I would imagine that Charlie had SOMETHING to do with their hitting success in those “early” years. But I guess we’ll never really know as there would be no way to actually measure it.

  2. Shine Box

    April 2, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Gotta give credit to Charlie for playing against stereotype and batting Revere lead-off. If he can set the table like a true lead-off hitter (as opposed to Jimmy) the 2-3-4 hitters will see better pitches.

  3. vince

    April 2, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Manuel’s on the record of saying after the NLDS series loss to the Cardinals that he wanted to see guys swing at more pitches. Last night, pitch selection, not pitch taking was the most important (swinging at fastballs ahead in the count). Rollins kill the fastball, and seeing from yesterday, Revere getting on will give Rollins more fastballs to hit, and boost the average big time.

    • Alex Lee

      April 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      I don’t remember Charlie saying that at all. The talk was all about having a better approach at the plate and being better situational hitters… part of which is seeing more pitches. Against Carpenter that day, they managed only 3 hits, zero walks and only K’d three times, so it wasn’t like CC was blowing them away… it was pretty much the dictionary definition of over-aggression.

  4. George

    April 2, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    It’s certainly nice to see the starter gone quickly. That is, unless you’re getting into what might be the best bullpen in the game.

    I also think pitch selection means more than taking walks. I’ve seen too many games where a hitter swung at ball two or three and knocked it a mile, because he knew he could make good contact.

    • Alex Lee

      April 2, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      Agreed George… it is definitely more than taking walks, but ‘pitches seen’ and walk percentage is one tangible way to measure a decent sized chunk of it.

      As for he Braves, they do have a good pen, but let’s see how things shake out sans Venters. Either way, the concept of getting the starter out ASAP is a proven one.

      • George

        April 3, 2013 at 8:33 am

        Getting the starter out early is, to me, a misleading stat in determining what a batter’s approach is. Most often, a 4-5 inning start is made by a back-of-the-rotation guy (usually not a real challenge) or a quality pitcher having a bad day.

        When a pitcher is truly on, there may be times when the batter can’t look for “his pitch” because he’s not going to get it. A command/control guy will be putting the ball where HE wants it, not where the batter does, and if that batter lets too many go by, he’ll soon be striking out “looking.” A good pitcher also generally has the ability to induce the hitter to swing with pitches that appear hittable but break suddenly or come at at a speed which doesn’t match the motion. The Carpenter playoff game could very well be an example of a pitcher being “on,” even though he barely struck anyone out. If a pitcher is as consistently in the zone as Carpenter was, the batter doesn’t stand much chance of waiting for a particular pitch or for a walk, and has to at least try to get an infield dribbler, a blooper, or whatever else he can get the bat on; otherwise, he WILL strike out.

  5. Andrew from Waldorf

    April 2, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    @ Chuck

    Charlies lack of respect for taking a walk has done long term damage to Howards career.
    While yes I assume he did help their confidence and approach in the beginning.

    Glad you are still here for the 2013 eason.
    If they win the WS I will see you at the parade.

    And if they win the WS Charlie Manuel is a hall of famer.

    The only one from this phillies run.
    Unless Hamels has a long and good career.
    Doc doesnt count.
    He gets in from his career before the phils, plus the Phillies run.

    • schmenkman

      April 2, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      I think there’s a good chance that you’re right that Hamels might be the only one still with a shot at the Hall.

      But I came across this recently and thought it was interesting — WAR per plate appearance in the post-WW II era:

      1) Bonds, 2) Mays, 3) Pujols, 4) Mantle, 5) Utley, 6) JRobinson, 7) Schmidt, 8) ARodriguez, 9) Aaron, 10) EMathews

      Pujols, Utley, and ARod will dip some as they age, but still – not bad company.

      • Shine Box

        April 2, 2013 at 5:32 pm

        Awesome stat schmenkman!

  6. Andrew from Waldorf

    April 2, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    The fact that Ruiz is a minus WAR player in 2008 really makes me dubious of the stat.

    But I am dubious of almost all the new stats.

    I am glad they came up with OPS which is the most important stat now.

    But I have also argued here about Wins for a pitcher being meaningless.
    I happen to think it is the most important statistic for a starting pitcher.
    As you play to win the game.

    IMO Wins and ERA are the 2 best ways to measure a SP.

    Not Ks per nine or some other ratio they have invented in the basement of the science building.

    AFW keeping it old school.

    • schmenkman

      April 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      Ruiz is not minus WAR in 2008. But he is close to 0, and it’s not that surprising, IMO.

      He was around 2 WAR in 2007, when he hit .259/.340/.396 for a wRC+ of 84 (i.e. 16% below league average).

      But in 2008, he hit .219/.320/.300 for a wRC+ of 64 (36% below average). Out of the 281 players with 300+ PAs that year, that made Chooch the 11th worst hitter in baseball, and if that’s all WAR measured he would be been at minus 1-2 WAR. Defense for catchers is one of the harder things to quantify, but it did help his WAR that year (as it has every year), and made up for the awful hitting to push him into slightly positive territory.

  7. arc

    April 2, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    A lot of “less knowledgeable posters” are saying that Howard is not a clutch hitter. Theyre right!! First, let me explain what clutch means, or what I believe most posters who hold this view believe it means. It means in decisive/elimination type games Howard is non existent. In 2009 WS Howards avg was .174. In 2010 in the Cs Howard hit .318 with 0 HR’s. In 2011 Howard hit .105 with 1 HR. Now granted, its just his luck that in 2010 and 2012 the last at bat was him, so this is who we remember, which make his failures even worse. But this doesnt erase the numbers. Again, Howard not being clutch to me is not so much a product of his shortcomings than it is Charlies inability to manage, Amaros inability to not be arrogant, and pitchers who would rather slap their own mother before they throw a ball across the plate at Howard in a do or die game.

    • schmenkman

      April 2, 2013 at 9:54 pm

      Well, that’s rather limiting. I guess the Phillies were in no clutch situations in 2012 then.

      Fine, now that his clutch ability in the regular season seems to be settled, let’s focus on the postseason:

      1) Howard has hit almost as well in the postseason as in the regular season:

      He has a .915 OPS in the regular season
      He has a .845 OPS in the postseason

      That is not a big difference by any means, especially considering that the postseason is a small sample and there’s bound to be some normal variation. And of course, with better pitching, most hitters have worse stats in the postseason.

      Stats per 162 games:

      Regular season .. 162 hits, 30 doubles, 44 HR, 136 RBI, 83 BB, 193 SO
      Postseason ……… 155 hits, 46 doubles, 28 HR, 116 RBI, 92 BB, 236 SO

      That’s still some very good performance.

      2) Howard has had more than his share of postseason success:

      – tied record for HRs in 5-game playoff series, 2008
      – “Just get me to the plate boys” — NLCS MVP, 2009
      – tied record for consecutive postseason games with RBIs, 2009
      – no RBIs but best Phillies hitter in postseason with .819 OPS, 2010
      – 3-run HR to get them back in game 1, in 2011 NLDS
      – 2-run single to give them lead in game 2, 2011 NLDS

      • arc

        April 2, 2013 at 10:59 pm

        Again, lets throw 08 out the window. if youre talking about limiting statistics, than including one year where a whole team was performing above avg. is misleading. In 2009, as i said; WS, clutch time? .174 in 2010 game 6 of the NLCS his last two at bats were strike outs with 2 men on base. In 2011 he hit .105. I dont consider a game 1 or 2 of an NLDS a clutch situation. In game 1, yes that was clutch, but its an exception not the rule.
        In game 2 that was in the bottom of the first. You call that clutch?
        My point is not Howard is not a formidable hitter, on the contrary he is one of the best. My point is managers will find a way to nullify him, something Manuel has a hard time doing.

      • schmenkman

        April 2, 2013 at 11:12 pm

        I see no reason to “throw 08 out the window”, since he was a major reason they won.

        So in 2009, only the WS was clutch time? How did they get there?

        2010 Game 6? That’s the only game you’re interested in for that year?

        You don’t consider game 1 or 2 of the 2011 NLDS a clutch situation. Wow. Just wow.

        Look, if you expect any player to be at his best in every game of every series against the highest competition, that is unreasonable in the extreme.

      • Lefty

        April 2, 2013 at 11:30 pm

        Wait, what? So the Halladay NLDS Game 1 no-hitter was not clutch then?

        You never cease to amaze, I’ll give you that,

        smh

      • Devin

        April 2, 2013 at 11:42 pm

        Of course, nobody who actually knows anything about baseball believes that “clutch” is real. Imagine a man who has had countless at bats in front of scouts, in HS championship games, in huge college games, in the minor leagues to prove his worth, every day knowing that his performance at that level would mean the difference between millions of dollars and a job at McDonald’s. That man somehow never developed the ability to perform under pressure? That’s ridiculous.

        NO ATHLETE makes it to the pros without the ability to perform in high pressure situations. To suggest otherwise is flat out stupid.

      • arc

        April 2, 2013 at 11:58 pm

        I remember once reading about the IQ of the Philadelphia fan. As a native of this city i took offense to their insinuations. However, the more time I spend on this site the more I am able to see the perspective of those outside this region. How can a fan base be so hell bent on defending their sports team that they lose all ability to reason? Again, if you or any poster got from what I was saying that Howard is any less of a ball player, I have to start to question you’re reading comprehension. If you stop, breathe and detach your self from the disease of Philly fanaticism, you will realize my point. the strategy that any sane manager would use against a power hitter with no protection(except Charlie) If not, than the exercise of writing this last post only made me dumber.
        I just returned from DC last week, and Im regretful to say; Philly is a depressed, uneducated, outdated, blue collar city with the worst city planning/business outlook of any major city in the US. Maybe everybody is right about us.

      • schmenkman

        April 3, 2013 at 12:05 am

        Ok, now what are you talking about? Who said anything about him being “less of a ball player” until you just brought it up? You said he wasn’t clutch, and I disagreed and showed that he is.

        So why the need to suddenly resort to on the city and the fans?

      • schmenkman

        April 3, 2013 at 12:06 am

        i.e. So why the need to suddenly resort to attacks on the city and the fans?

      • Lefty

        April 3, 2013 at 6:44 am

        Because that’s what they do when backed into a corner. Try to change the subject, cry out, and attack, – all typical behaviors.

      • Lefty

        April 3, 2013 at 7:00 am

        @ Devin

        “NO ATHLETE makes it to the pros without the ability to perform in high pressure situations. To suggest otherwise is flat out stupid.”

        Who said anyone didn’t have the ability to perform? The arguments I’m reading said they either did, or did not perform in certain situations, no one said they didn’t have the ability.
        And

        “nobody who actually knows anything about baseball believes that “clutch” is real.”

        First of all, there are stats kept that show how batters perform with runners on base, in scoring position, in scoring postion with two outs, men on second and third with one out, two outs, and just plain BA w RISP. Records are kept for every combination. If no one believed clutch was real, why would all these MLB statisticians bother, clearly some people with utmost baseball knowledge believe clutch is real.

        Secondly, why don’t we take a poll of “anybody who knows anything about baseball” and let’s see if you’re right. I could start it- or, better idea, you can. If I do, you might accuse me of framing it so it that it will go my way. So, In a new comment box below- just start a PN Poll. I’m not saying I’m right, but there are plenty of people around here that know the game well, so how about it, I’d be curious to see the results.

      • schmenkman

        April 3, 2013 at 8:33 am

        Clutch performance certainly happens every day, and we have stats to track it retrospectively and can say whether someone was or wasn’t clutch in the past.

        When people say clutch isn’t real, they typically mean that it doesn’t exist as a repeatable skill. If it were a repeatable skill, you would expect to see the same players consistently performing better in clutch situations than in other situations. It’s not completely settled, but at a minimum you can say there is no clear evidence that clutch exists as a skill that can be repeated and predicted, as it can with other skills such as hitting for average, or walking, or a pitcher getting strikeouts or ground balls.

        There are players, like Howard, who do better in certain situations, such as with men on base, but in his case, in that situation, there is a reason for much of that success, and that’s that there typically isn’t a shift on. But I suppose that’s more of a case of his non-clutch stats being depressed by the shift rather than his rising to the occasion with men on base. In the end, he has been one of the most efficient in baseball in the % of runners on base that he drives in (and as shown earlier he’s hit well in the postseason).

        I’m sure there are other players who do better in certain situations, but again, in general, clutch performance seems to be more random than anything.

      • "Big Ed" Delahanty

        April 3, 2013 at 8:35 am

        @ARC: It is obvious that yo have never visited Detroit or Camden. Philly looks like a four-star hotel compared to them. Now back to the back to back about “clutch hitting.” lol.

    • arc

      April 3, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Schmenkman, I really appreciate conversing with you. Of all the posters who I banter with back and forth you seem to be the only one I can almost bet possesses an advanced degree.
      Now im no intellectual snob, but it makes it really hard to dialog with people who are unable to inference, comprehend or converse objectively. Again, I believe the point youre making about being “clutch” is dead on, but again, my critique was not about Howards ability in do or die situations, but opposing teams strategies against Howard, or any dangerous hitter in a clutch “do or die” situation. For whatever reason I cant get some posters on here to understand this. Which brings me to my DC rant. Some of the fans mentality on here reminds me of the provincialism, inflexibility, and that, to me has been indicative of this town to everyone outside this region. These same characteristics I witness by some posters on this site is the same mentality that has stifled growth in this city for decades. Hopefully busting these trade unions will bring some education and diversity to this region. I think a more diverse fan base will have an impact on the reputation and mentality many of us have. Now Schmenkman, fortunately you are a great example of a rational and sophisticated fan, and many others on here also, but the hooligan, blue collar mentality really needs to die out. The world is changing, the neanderthal man is not really necessary anymore. As for Philly vs DC, theres no comparison, and anybody who would even dare challenge that statement has never spent time in that area, or is an unreasonable moron. DC is a world class city, Philly is a 2nd class city, but the kick is it shouldnt be. Philly has all the ability to be one of the greatest cities in the US, but the old mentality must die.

      • George

        April 3, 2013 at 1:59 pm

        And this man calls Amaro “arrogant!”

      • Chuck A.

        April 3, 2013 at 2:16 pm

        What is an advanced degree? I wouldn’t know because I’m a “blue collar” “hooligan” who’s also a “neanderthal” and an “unreasonable moron.”

    • Don M

      April 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm

      I, for one, love the notion that cities have the ability to be great… that’s fun

  8. Andrew from Waldorf

    April 3, 2013 at 12:34 am

    I believe we are in the land of the trolls.

    DC is the worst sports town in America.

    Every year the Skins are winning the super bowl.
    This year the Nats are the talk of MLB. So here they are.

    Let them struggle and you will see a mass exodus.
    Caps are the talk of the town when they are doing well.
    Be bad and there are 12,000 hard core hockey fans in the city.

    Washington fans are too stupid to see that Ovechkin is a liability.

    There are some fans here that dont grasp Howards short comings.
    But at least most of the fans grasp it.

    I rail on this team and its management alot.
    Philly fans are the most intelligent and passionate in sports.

    Washington fans could be relocated to San Diego or LA and not miss a beat.

    To compare the fan bases does not work.

    There probaby is no site like this for the Nats and they are the darlings of MLB.

    Let them be an aging team on the downslope?
    There will be no bandwagon and an empty stadium.

  9. Chuck A.

    April 3, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Just read that whole exchange between arc and schmenkman. Jesus. Either I need another cup of coffee or I need to start pre-game happy hour early!

    arc – just WHAT the eff was your attempted attack on the city of Philadelphia vs. DC all about anyway?? Ever walk or drive around parts of DC that aren’t government or tourist related?? I would say that’s a pretty depressing situation. But that’s another issue that would be better served on another blog maybe having to do with civic affairs or something.

    As for Howard….I do my fair share of complaining about some of his at-bats or approaches to certain situations when he’s up there. BUT…. he’s proven over the past 7-8
    years that he’s the Phillies best run producer AND has had a major impact on the OVERALL (key word there) success of this team. If you want to feel otherwise that’s your prerogative and that’s cool. But your argument is weak and your facts aren’t complete or conclusive.

  10. Phillies fan from Germany

    April 3, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Coming back to the original post: Unfortunately, there is one new player who does not fit into the patience picture at all and that is Delmon Young… Man, I think he will drive me crazy with his approch at the plate and his defense. In still remember the World Series game he played in Left Field (I think it was Game 1). He looked absolutely horrible out there.

  11. Andrew From Waldorf

    April 3, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    “I know a lot of people think I’m dumb. Well, at least I ain’t no educated fool.”

    Leon Spinks

    • Ken Bland

      April 3, 2013 at 4:43 pm

      Hey George,

      Tell me this isn’t a great line in response to the Nicetown knucklehead deciding who’s got what GPA from what grade or evaluating Philly from his dungeon…

      Say what you want about AFW and his every other minute fantasy updates, but you gotta give credit where it’s due, huh?

      This is easily the best line I’ve heard since the other night when a fan said Kershaw pitched like Koufax, and hit like Drysdale.

      my man, AFW. ^5

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