People who study this stuff contend that the order of a baseball team's line-up plays a negligible role in the eventual outcome of a game. So it's hard to greet Charlie Manuel's decision to return Jimmy Rollins to the leadoff spot with anything more than a slight raise of the eyebrow. Interesting, sure. But the Phillies haven't struggled because Shane Victorino was hitting first and Rollins was hitting third. Still, it should be noted that Victorino has actually performed well as a table-setter this season, at least when you judge him by the numbers he has posted.
Victorino is reaching base in 41.2 percent of his of his plate appearances when leading off an inning and 38.5 percent when leading off the game. He is hitting .375 with a 1.099 OPS in 48 plate appearances as the first batter in an inning. Of those 48 plate appearances as a true leadoff hitter, Victorino has gone on to score a run 12 times. Three of those runs he drove in himself via home runs, which means a teammate has driven him in nine times.
In other words, 20 percent of Victorino's plate appearances as a leadoff hitter have seen him reach base and then score.
Here is how that ratio compares to those of other leadoff hitters in the National League when leading off an inning.
|Player||Plate App||On Base Perc.||Runs||Home runs||Percent|
Rollins has led off an inning 17 times this season, reaching base in 41.2 percent of his PAs, and scoring runs in five. The last time he posted career-average numbers in a season was 2008. That year, he posted a .264 OBP when leading off an inning and went on to score runs in 14.8 percent of his plate appearances.
The thing you can say is that Victorino has reached base and been driven in at rates that put him among the top four in the NL in those categories. In the ideal world that Manuel is envisioning, Rollins and Victorino both get on base for Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard, who have been the two most consistent players in the line-up when it comes to driving in runs this season.
Whatever happens, statistics suggest the change won't play a huge role in the success or failure of the offense. But it is worth watching.
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