Numbers show Chase Utley belongs in the two-hole

Numbers show Chase Utley belongs in the two-hole

February 25, 2013, 2:45 pm
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Spring Training TV Schedule

Feb. 26, Yankees at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Feb. 28, Braves at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 3, Blue Jays at Phillies, 1 p.m., CSN

Mar. 5, World Baseball Classic, 1 p.m., CSN

Mar. 6, Nationals at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 7, Twins at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 12, Tigers at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 14, Pirates at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 17, Orioles at Phillies, 1 p.m., CSN

Mar. 19, Yankees at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 22, Braves at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 26, Rays at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 28, Blue Jays at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 29, Blue Jays at Phillies, 7 p.m., TCN

Chase Utley was back in the lineup and batting second for the Phillies in their third game of the spring Monday against the Tigers. He batted twice, grounding out to the right side on a first-pitch outside fastball in the first and walking on four pitches in the fourth.

The Phils faced lefty Drew Smyly, which could explain Utley batting second. But that just might be the best spot in the lineup for him. Whether it’s Jimmy Rollins or Ben Revere leading off, the Phillies’ second batter figures to find himself in plenty of no-out, man-on-second situations. Why not have Utley, your best hitter, at the dish?

In his career with no outs and a runner on first, second or third, Utley is a .308 hitter with 60 RBIs, a .382 on-base percentage and a .465 slugging percentage in under 400 plate appearances.

Even though Charlie Manuel said last week that Rollins is still his leadoff man, a top-four of Revere, Utley, Rollins and Ryan Howard, in that order, would make a lot of sense. Bat your three best run producers after your fastest player, who may not have the highest career on-base percentage but has the speed and tools to develop those skills.

Some lineup analyses have shown that second is the most important spot in a lineup. It makes logical sense -- the two-hole hitter has the chance to drive in a run immediately after the leadoff man reaches base, or he can get on for the middle-of-the-order hitters after him. Being a high-on base run producer, Utley fits the role perfectly.

Rollins is also an ideal option at No. 3, where the same studies have shown a low-OBP, high-slugging player should bat. Sounds like Rollins, doesn't it? The third batter rarely leads an inning off, which is why the OBP doesn't matter as much as it does at 1 or 2. Rollins led off an inning 271 times last season. Utley, who has batted third for a majority of his career, averages 92 leadoff situations per year. It's a 3-to-1 difference.

Revere was out of the lineup Monday, replaced in centerfield by Michael Martinez, who batted ninth. Leading off was shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. Dynamic, that duo.

Cliff Lee started and continued the trend Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay set by allowing just one baserunner over two innings, a first-inning walk of Miguel Cabrera. It took Lee 15 pitches to record six outs, including a pair of punchouts.