There's a great article from David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News on how the Phillies lineup might be adjusted to take advantage of the Phillies new approach. If you haven't read the article, you definitely should. Change of Approach: A New Phillies Lineup It's a well thought out and researched approach to how the Phillies lineup might be adjusted to maximize the potential of each of the hitters. Basically, Murphy's lineup goes like this: Utley, Rollins (if he's still a Phillie), Pence, Howard, Victorino, Ruiz, Mayberry, Polanco, with both Mayberry and Polanco contingent on whether they're the starting left fielder and third baseman, respectively.
Just for fun, it seemed like a fun approach to do our own adjusting of the lineup to see how we might put things together. So let's take a look at the lineup with the same suppositions that Murphy used; Rollins, Mayberry and Polanco are all in the opening day lineup.
1. Jimmy Rollins - While he's not the quintessential leadoff hitter, the Phillies simply perform best when Rollins leads off. They've dropped him lower in the lineup, but it just doesn't work. One caveat to having him leadoff is that he has to understand that he is being looked at to get on-base and make things happen. He is also there to make the opposing pitcher work, not to hit the first offering that he sees. Rollins will need to drop down more bunts and run more on the bases as part of the Phillies new approach.
2. Chase Utley - If you look at the spray charts in Murphy's article, you'll see that Utley certainly has the ability to hit behind the runner and his numbers are actually all better from the two spot in the order than in the third spot. Batting second, Utley's line is .315/.390/.528, while it changes to .288/.382/.508 when he's hitting third. As Murphy also points out, Utley has a high success rate when it comes to stealing bases and can pick up any of the slack if Rollins doesn't get on. Speed and stolen base efficiency should be hallmarks of the Phillies new approach to hitting.
3. Carlos Ruiz - This is where it gets interesting. Since becoming the Phillies everyday catcher, Ruiz has an on-base percentage of .358 and has shown a knack for turning the lineup over when he's hitting eighth. The key is to get as many runners on-base for the big bats and a lineup with Rollins, Utley and Ruiz should give plenty of opportunities to those big bats. In their careers, the three have a combined on-base percentage of .349, which should be good enough to give Howard and Company some ducks on the pond when their at-bats come up. It would be interesting to see how Ruiz would respond when he would have run producers hitting behind him rather than a pitcher.
4. Ryan Howard - It's really the only spot in the order where Howard can hit. Plus, he is far and away the most prolific home run hitter on the club and it simply makes sense to have him bat in his customary spot in the order.
5. Hunter Pence - The Phillies got Pence to hit behind Howard, so let him do that job. Pence hit .325 with a .556 slugging percentage hitting behind Howard and those numbers are exactly the type of numbers needed to protect Howard in the order. Another reason why Pence was acquired was because he was the big right-handed bat that the Phillies needed to put into the lineup and if you look at the proposed order, you're able to go righty/lefty and that continues with Pence.
6. Shane Victorino - Victorino is the type of hitter that Rollins wanted to be. He hits for power, but in a very understated way. In other words, he's not looking to mash the ball in every at-bat; he knows when to turn on a pitch and knows when to just take what the pitcher is going to give him. In two of the past three seasons, Victorino led the league in triples. He's a switch-hitter, which makes it harder to pitch around Pence, and he can do a lot of things with the bat. Putting him consistently in a spot where he can drive in runs makes a lot of sense, especially since he is already close to being the type of hitter that the Phillies want to develop with their new approach.
7. John Mayberry Jr. - Mayberry showed some power and the ability to hit in clutch spots many times throughout the 2011 season, making him the perfect guy to pick up hits in those spots where Victorino doesn't come through. He's also becoming a smarter hitter and that should continue to develop as he matures. He's also got the ability to hit for a decent average.
8. Placido Polanco - When he's healthy, Polanco is very much the type of hitter that Ruben Amaro talked about in his new philosophy. He takes pitches, works the count, can hit behind runners and can come through in some clutch situations for you. He should be able to do enough out of the eighth spot to turn the lineup over with some consistency, which is one of the big things that Ruiz did out of this spot for most of his career.