Data Ball With Jason Ferrie

How good could the 2006 Phillies offense have been with the DH?


How many games could the Phillies have won in 2006 with Jim Thome in their lineup? (Brad Rempel/Icon Sportswire)

As it appears more and more likely that the DH will eventually come to the National League, it could be fun to think of scenarios where the Philadelphia Phillies could have used this option.

Right now, there may be a scenario where this rule being added benefits the team—but thinking back, it is interesting to imagine the Phillies with a lineup featuring both Jim Thome and Ryan Howard. The obvious issue of the National League is two first basemen and only one lineup spot. Prior to the 2006 season, the Phillies elected to move on from Jim Thome and go with the younger Ryan Howard, who was the defending National League Rookie of the Year. Imagine if the Phillies could have kept both together for 2006 and maybe beyond.

It is obviously an imperfect way to go about the process, but it is fun to think about. Howard, who was in his age 26 season, was the obvious direction for the future in Philadelphia, but it wasn’t like Thome was fading. Thome would go on to hit 134 home runs between 2006 and 2009.

The Phillies traded Thome to the Chicago White Sox in return for three players—most notably, Aaron Rowand. Rowand ended up playing 109 games in 2006 and produced just an 88 wRC+ and 1.2 fWAR. It is easy to remove Rowand from the equation and build a lineup that was suitable for the year. Shane Victorino played in 153 games in 2006 and was the better player between him and Rowand, but split time between all three outfield positions.

A more difficult portion to imagine is a lineup after the July trade of Bobby Abreu, but for this imaginary scenario, I am just putting out their projected lineup in 2006 to start the season. Abreu would eventually be traded to the New York Yankees, so the Phillies got just 98 games out of their right fielder.

The fun takeaway is the ability to fit one more elite bat into a lineup that featured several already elite bats. This is what makes the DH addition so interesting—it adds the potential for more offense since pitchers generally do not hit well. For reference, the Phillies pitchers hit .091/.149/.110 in 372 plate appearances in 2006.

If the National League had the DH in 2006, this may have led to them retaining Thome and throwing him in the middle of a lineup that already featured Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu. Each of those hitters finished the season better than league average in wRC+. Without Thome, the lineup finished with a 108 wRC+ and 27 fWAR—which was second best in baseball. Thome finished the 2006 campaign with a 153 wRC+ and 4.8 fWAR.

The Phillies had a few holes on Opening Day that they ended up addressing throughout the year, and while imagining the lineup, it gives the ability to move some parts compared to the lineup Charlie Manuel put out on Opening Day:

Name POS G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% wOBA wRC+ WAR
Jimmy Rollins SS 158 758 25 127 83 36 7.50% 10.60% 0.346 103 4.3
Chase Utley 2B 160 739 32 131 102 15 8.50% 17.90% 0.388 130 7.2
Jim Thome DH 143 610 42 108 109 0 17.50% 24.10% 0.421 153 4.8
Ryan Howard 1B 159 704 58 104 149 0 15.30% 25.70% 0.436 162 5.9
Bobby Abreu RF 98 438 8 61 65 20 20.80% 19.60% 0.381 126 1.9
Pat Burrell LF 144 567 29 80 95 0 17.30% 23.10% 0.381 126 1.5
Mike Lieberthal C 67 230 9 22 36 0 3.50% 8.30% 0.335 96 1.1
Shane Victorino CF 153 462 6 70 46 4 5.20% 11.70% 0.334 95 2.7
Abraham Nunez 3B 123 369 2 42 32 1 11.10% 15.70% 0.258 46 -1.6

The team minus Thome managed to win 85 games in the 2006 season but looking at this lineup—it would be hard to imagine them not being able to win a few additional games with Thome and his 153 wRC+. It is far from perfect as many things could change if history was played back and this lineup hit the field together, but it does show the impact that bringing the DH to the National League could have. The Phillies could have moved up their window to win by a few years if this rule was in place back in 2006. The ability to remove that dreaded pitcher production and add even a league average bat is massive, let alone add a hitter that was 53 percent better than league average.

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