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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

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Speaking of Mike Liberthal.
As I imagine most people do, I form impressions that are sometimes not backed up by facts. One of those impressions, painfully brought to mind by watching the Phillies lose to Seattle tonight 5-1, is that Bell and Lieberthal, batting in sequence in the lineup, present an Offensive Black Hole that the Phillies cannot usually overcome. Rally-killers extraordinaire.
Well I decided to see if my impression was supported by the facts. I looked at all the Phillies' box scores and counted the games where neither Bell nor Lieberthal started, the games where one or the other started, the games where they both started, but batted apart in the order, and games where they both started and batted consecutively in the order.
The results:

Record with neither 4-0 5.75 RPG
Record with 1 of them 10-5 6.00 RPG
Record batting apart 12-7 5.42 RPG
Record batting in order 10-18 3.71 RPG

Start Both 22-25 4.40 RPG
Don't Start Both 14-5 5.95 RPG

Bat Them in Order 10-18 3.71 RPG
ANY OTHER OPTION 26-12 5.45 RPG

The best thing for the offense would then seem to be to play only one of them at a time. Playing together they drain the offense to the tune of 1.5 RPG. (With Polanco gone it might not be so high now)
But if for defensive or other reasons you have to play them both at the same time, don't let them bat in sequence in the lineup. Ever. The difference is almost 2 runs a game! (And that doesn't count the pitcher following them if they bat 7-8 in the order.)

The fact that there is a significant negative impact when they bat in sequence rather than separately tells me that the offensve drop off is not so much a function of their individual batting averages, or OBP, as much as their tendency to both have so many non-productive outs. Separated in the order, the offense stills works, although not as effectively. Batting back-to-back, a big inning is seldom possible.

I surely don't think Bell and Lieberthal save the team 1.5 RPG on defense or on handling the pitching staff (another impression, I admit!). So what justifies them both starting as much as they do? The offense seems to operate just fine without them. Tomas Perez and perhaps Ramon Martinez should get more starts at 3rd, and Pratt should get more playing time as well.

Some might argue that the Phillies offense is potent enough to absorb this drain, but I don't buy it. I don't buy it because there is absolutely no reason for doing it, and because the strength of the rest of the lineup is irrelevant. If you can do better, you should.

George S

Excellent analysis George. I didn't agree with your Polanco for a Starter instead of a Reliever analysis yesterday, but you are right on today. Bell and Lieberthal are terrible batting together in the lineup. I guess this also helps to disprove the theory that lineup construction doesn't matter.

However, the question is if not together, where do you bat them? You can't bat either of them in the 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 slot. That leaves the 6, 7, and 8 slots. If you move Utley to 7, then Bell moves to 6. Bell is not worthy of hitting 6th. Also, that removes the protection offered to Thome by Utley. Jim is not swinging the bat well but he still gets pitches to hit. You put Bell behind Thome and pitchers will walk him to get to Bell, who also hits a lot of grounders and thus double plays as Thome runs slowly.

The only logical thing would be to start at most, only one of them per game. Lieby with his contract makes him too expensive to be benched or traded. That leaves Bell as the only option but he has very little trade value and Perez/Martinez's weaknesses will be blatantly exposed if played regularly. They are backups, nothing more. Sadly, I don't think there is a solution to this and will be one of the reason why the Phils will falter down the stretch. I still believe though...

you said man area. the wwl lives!!!

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