Phils Need Change at Top of Lineup

It's only late April, and already the Phillies have experimented with two leadoff hitters, neither of which displayed the fundamental talents needed to be a successful leadoff man in the Major Leagues. As a result, the Phillies offense has been outrageously inconsistent, a problem that has been plaguing this club for over two seasons now. With some simple tinkering with the lineup, this team could easily make up the ground needed in the standings to claim a long run of supremacy in the NL East.

Neither Jimmy Rollins nor Marlon Byrd have put up outstanding numbers from the leadoff spot this season, and during the time each spent at the top of the lineup; the team has struggled to produce runs. The solution to that problem can easily be resolved by inserting a permanent leadoff hitter into that spot. There are two ways the team can go about doing this, one would be by putting a member of the team currently on the roster into that spot, and another would be to make a trade for some pretty attractive options on other teams.

If the Phillies so choose, Bobby Abreu would be the ideal leadoff man for this club. Last season, Larry Bowa put Abreu at leadoff for about a week and the team responded by putting together a nice winning streak, and Abreu in spite of Bowa's change, showed he has what it takes to hit at the top of the lineup.

In 20 at bats from the leadoff spot, Abreu hit a paltry .250, but also compiled a .348 on base percentage with one homerun. What is even more impressive was Abreu's patience at the plate, when he totaled three walks and only four strikeouts. While the numbers aren't astounding, Abreu's short stint at the top of the lineup showed not only that could he produce from there, but that the team responded to the revamped batting order as well.

In what may have been the beginning of Bowa's potential downfall as the Phillies manager, Abreu was coddled back to the three spot in the lineup after his complaints that he would not produce as many RBI from the one whole. After Abreu was removed from the leadoff spot both his and the team's numbers fell into a slump.

When you compare Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd and Abreu's numbers one will realize that it is time to once again move Abreu to the top spot in the lineup. Some other rewards may come to frutitien should this move be made. Consider this, the Florida Marlins win their games based on speed and the ability manufacture runs. If Bowa would move Abreu to leadoff the team would gain some power at the top, as well as someone who can reach base with an extra base hit and also be patient enough to draw a walk. If Byrd were moved to the three hole, it would provide a good hitter who can hit for average as well as steal a base, between Jim Thome and Pat Burrell. Put Rollins at six or seven, and all of a sudden you have a balanced lineup that can hit for power as well as score far more runs because of pure speed being mixed in throughout the lineup.

Should management decide to make a move for a solid leadoff hitter, there are plenty of viable players available via trade. Players like Kenny Lofton or Carlos Beltran could be had, and would make an ideal leadoff hitter for Philadelphia. Lofton would come much cheaper than Beltran and because of his current situation in New York, his unhappiness may initiate a trade, and the Phillies would be a perfect fit.

If General Manager Ed Wade wants to buy the Lexus rather then the Camero, Beltran could be had. Now this is just speculation, but it is possible that the Royals would take Ryan Howard, Abreu and a decent pitching prospect in return for their incumbent center fielder. This season, Beltran is lighting it up, hitting seven home runs, four doubles and driving in 17 en route to a .302 batting average. If Beltran were acquired with Abreu as part of the deal, his salary could be raised in a long-term contract to similar numbers of Abreu's current deal.

Admittedly, it is still very early to consider making blockbuster trades, but it is apparent that something must be done to correct the Phillies current offensive situation. Whether it be Abreu, Lofton, Beltran or someone out of leftfield, the Phillies need to consider putting a new face atop the batting order.

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