Joe Girardi seems content with mixing and matching Phillies lineup combinations until he finds one that “works.” In reality, the order of the hitters matters significantly less than execution and that just hasn’t been there early on for the Phillies, who are off to a disappointing 4-8 start.
Phillies leadoff hitters, who rank 29th and 28th in batting average and on-base percentage since 2019, have been an issue and it’s carrying into 2022.
Jean Segura led off for the Phillies on Tuesday. He went 0-for-4 with a walk. He’s batting first for the second consecutive game on Wednesday. At this point in the year, nobody is the permanent solution to the Phillies’ leadoff woes. Joe Girardi told Matt Gelb of The Athletic on Wednesday that Segura and Rhys Hoskins will hit leadoff against righties and lefties from now on. J.T. Realmuto got in some reps as the leadoff hitter over the weekend in Miami.
Maybe Girardi could add one more hitter to the leadoff rotation.
Alec Bohm should be up for consideration. Bohm, 25, is off to a hot start on offense in 2022. He’s 8-for-17 with a .500 on-base percentage. When the worst of his offensive struggles subsided in 2021, Bohm posted a .361 on-base percentage from June 1 until the end of the season. When he’s right, Bohm has the ability to get on-base at a high clip. Even when he’s not at his best, Bohm could still provide value with his on-base skills.
Bohm has made improvements in a small sample size. His line-drive rate is up (24.5% in 2021 vs 36.8% in 2022) and the amount of pitches he’s seen per plate appearance is slightly higher (4.01 in 2021 vs. 4.13 in 2022). His first-pitch swing rate is also way down (34.5% in 2021 vs. 16.7% in 2022). Coming into Wednesday’s game, exactly a third of the pitches he’s seen so far have been while he’s ahead of the count. The eye test says that Bohm’s pitch selectivity has been better in the early going and some of the numbers do back that up.
If Bohm is going to stay on a roster filled with DH types, the Phillies need to find roles that both suit him and provide value to a win-now team. If Bohm does get the chance to lead off and it turns out he’s one of the better options in that spot, he could add more length to an already deep Phillies lineup and give Girardi a need to play him more often.
The standard for what a leadoff hitter should be in the year 2022 is somewhat undefined. The Phillies thought they had their guy when they signed Kyle Schwarber, who thrived as a power bat in the No. 1 spot last season. Girardi moved Schwarber off the leadoff spot over the weekend to both help him get out of his early-season funk and counter the opposition’s tendency to bring in their best lefty to face both Schwarber and Bryce Harper at crucial points in the game.
At this point, the Phillies just need to find someone who can consistently put up the best at-bats from the leadoff spot. Both the front office and coaching staff should look at Bohm as a realistic solution.
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