In the spirit of looking ahead, we zero in on third base.
Platoons were instrumental the last time the Phils made it to the World Series, and if they make it back, they'll play a central role yet again. The Phillies are sitting on a pleasant situation in right with Geoff Jenkins and Jayson Werth, who'll give the Phils a fighting chance to fill the void Aaron Rowand leaves behind, both offensively and defensively. The other platoon will occur at third base, where the situation is much murkier.
Greg Dobbs, Wes Helms and Eric Bruntlett will share the load, and there's no getting around the fact that it will be among the least productive and least efficient arrangements in the league. It's not even a true platoon; it's a taxi squad that will require two moves a night. Two of the three – Dobbs and Helms – are sub-par defenders and lopsided hitters when matched against lefties and righties. The supposed best defender – Bruntlett – last homered in 2005 and played exactly nine innings there in ’07 for a total of 33 in his Major League career.
If you’re like me, you’re skeptical that Helms and Dobbs will step up and gain Charlie Manuel’s trust defensively. Not surprisingly, both rank quite low in myriad defensive categories, Dobbs being especially brutal. But as the season wore on, it was Dobbs, not Helms, who saw more action, along with light-hitting glove man Abraham Nunez, who’s still seeking a job.
I point to May 6 in San Francisco as the game Helms lost his job as the regular third baseman. A fielding and throwing error both led to runs in the first and seventh. After that, his playing time dwindled. His bat never got started, either. It was the most disappointing season of his career, but the bench demotion is nothing new. He’s been given opportunties before and cannot stick.
His poor hitting was a shock. Some people were expecting upwards of 70-75 RBIs. His previous two seasons suggested he’d figured out how to hit for high average and Cholly lauded his ability to hit to the opposite field. Instead, he looked sluggish. It took forever for Helms to connect for a home run. No part of his game resonated beyond that of an ordinary role player.
With Helms fading from the picture, the Phils turned to Dobbs. Dobber can’t field or hit the target, but they sure win when he plays. I don’t have exact wins/loss numbers in games he starts, but I know it’s quite high. Dobbs came out of the blue to start 56 games at the hot corner, 77 total when adding in first and outfield. I’m going to predict modest or no improvements defensively. I’m skeptical of his bat. I believe I'm looking at a pure fastball hitter who can’t hit breaking stuff. I think he is exposed, but I believe the manager likes him best.
I was surprised to learn that over Bruntlett’s career, he’s been a much, much better hitter against left-handers. That’s important because it gives Manuel another reason to get the best defender onto the field and suppliment Helms. Bruntlett is best used in the middle infield, where he’s a reasonable alternative to Nunez. I have no clue what to expect from him at third.
Speaking of Nuni, I should mention the Phils have not officially ruled out the possibility of brining him back. The club would sleep easier knowing they had someone of Nunez's defensive quality stashed away to back up Bruntlett, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. But old habits must die hard.
Remaining free agents: Morgan Ensberg, Dallas McPherson, Corey Koskie, Pedro Feliz, Abraham Nunez, Jeff Cirillo, Russell Branyan,