Make no mistake about it, the reason the Philadelphia Phillies are in the NLDS is due to the steadying hand of manager Rob Thomson. A nearly .600 winning percentage, rising like a phoenix from the Joe Girardi disaster, and overcoming the loss of Bryce Harper for 60-plus games are proof of that. Thomson’s almost immediate reversal of Girardi’s manic lineup changes included.
But is now –after a disappointing game two loss to the Braves– the right time for Thomson to shuffle the lineup?
The Phillies first two hitters, Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins, are a combined 1-for-36 this postseason with 14-strikeouts, no walks, and 2 RBIs. While the Phils have been lauded for their two-out magic at the plate, they’re being forced into the position due to the lack of production by Schwarber and Hoskins.
The duo, both of whom were instrumental in the Phillies run to the postseason, are coming up woefully small with runners in scoring position. Schwarber and Hoskins have nine combined at-bats with runners in scoring position with no hits and three K’s. To be fair, Schwarber did have two very impactful RBI sac flies in the NLWCS. But those two at-bats against the St. Louis Cardinals are the outlier.
Both sluggers are pressing at the plate.
Let’s start with Schwarber.
The Phils’ leadoff hitter hasn’t reached base in 18 consecutive plate appearences dating back to the season finale agianst the Houston Astros on October 5. In that same period, Schwarber has struck out nine times and has looked feeble doing so.
The August version of Schwaber crushes that ball off of one of the office buildings that surround Truist Park. But now opposing pitchers are feasting on Schwarber’s lack of confidence at the plate. Unfortuantely for the Phils, Schwarber’s issues at leadoff are rolling down hill to Hoskins.
Since October 2, Hoskins is 1-for-31 with 1 RBI, 1 BB, and 12 Ks. His loan hit was a bloop double in game one of the NLDS. Added to the lack of production is Hoskins in ability to play a clean infield. His failure to come up with Matt Olson’s two-out hit on Wednesday proved to be the difference in the game. While not an easy play, there was no reason to attempt the field the ball the way he did from where he was on the field.
If Thomson decides to make a change what exactly would it look like? Afterall, the Phillies –as constructed– don’t have a traditional tablesetter like Jimmy Rollins or Lenny Dykstra.
Looking at historical statistics, the Phillies could –and should– lean on J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura at the top of the lineup. Here’s how the pair compare at the one and two spots.
Segura has batted leadoff in 411-games during his nearly 10-year Major League career. The 32-year-old has a slash line of .295/.339/.433 and 1,877 plate appearances from the leadoff spot.
Segura’s numbers in the two-hole aren’t as good but they’re close.
In 439-games, Segura slashed .283/.327/.408 from the second spot in the lineup. Like the sample size at leadoff, Segura has 1,924 plate appearances in the two-hole.
From the one and two spots in the lineup, Segura has 1,017 H, 76 HRs, 168 2Bs, 34 3Bs, 194 BBs, 151 SBs, and 331 RBIs. As you can see by the numbers, Segura has batted one or two the majority of his career and has been very successful.
Realmuto is another option for the Phillies at leadoff spot if they choose to shake up the lineup. Realmuto has appeared as the leadoff hitter in 46-games and slashed .313/.351/.431 in 208 plate appearences. While drastically less experience than Segura, Realmuto could prove to be an option at the leadoff spot.
Realmuto has recored 61 H, 2 HR, 13 2B,s 2 3Bs, 11 BBs, 6 SBs, and 19 RBIs as the first batter of the game.
What makes Realmuto an interesting candidate to leadoff is his base stealing ability. Realmuto was 21-for-22 this year in the stolen base category and 47-for-53 in his career in Philadelphia. His 21-stolen bases led the team this year, Segura was second with 13-stolen bases.
In a postseason –despite NLDS Game 1– that has been dominated by pitching, the Phillies approach at the plate will need to change if they want to survive to see another series.
Now the question remains, will Rob Thomson continue to make the right moves to advance this baseball team? Phillies fans will find out on Friday afternoon at what will be a raucous Citizens Bank Park in South Philly.