After his team was shut out on Wednesday afternoon, Ryne Sandberg said he's take the scheduled day off on Thursday to think about a lineup change. It was the third time his team had been shutout in nine games and the Phillies had lost seven of nine games overall.
Sandberg shook up his lineup Friday, but in part because one of his regulars was unable to play. With Ben Revere out with a stomach flu, Sandberg inserted longtime leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins into the top spot of the lineup, up from the second spot, and slid on-base machine Carlos Ruiz into the two-hole.
When asked if he would have still made the change if Revere was healthy, Sandberg said that was hypothetical. But...
"I try to come up with a lineup that makes sense for that particular game," he said. "On the other note, trying something different is a good idea, for this game, trying something different is something what I wanted to do."
Sandberg went on to say he does like Ruiz hitting seventh, to provide balance in the lower half of the order.
He also defended Revere, saying that when the team has scored runs this year - and in the two months prior to his injury last year - it's been in part because Revere has been producing at the top of the lineup.
But the numbers in the first seven weeks of 2014 would suggest a change for more than one night might be in order.
Revere is hitting .268 with a .284 OBP; only Domonic Brown (.282) has a lower OBP among Phillies regulars). Among players who have at least 100 plate appearances out of the leadoff spot, Revere’s .289 OBP when hitting first ranks 22nd out of 25 players in baseball.
And then there's the case for Ruiz to hit in one of the top two spots in the lineup:
Ruiz is hitting .275 with a .385 OBP; among players with at least 125 plate appearances, Ruiz is tied for 19th in MLB in OBP with former teammate Jayson Werth. Since the beginning of the 2010 season Ruiz's .375 OBP is tied for 14th in baseball with Paul Goldschmidt (min. 1,500 PAs).
During that period spanning five seasons, Ruiz has a better on-base percentage than the likes of Werth, Robinson Cano, David Wright and Dustin Pedroia, among others.
But Sandberg didn't sound like he was ready to keep Ruiz toward the top on a long-term basis.
"Well, I also like him up there in an RBI situation and with the guys ahead of him at the top and in the middle of the order," Sandberg said. "I also like him coming up with an RBI situation. Now with some other hitters, if they can show some improvement and swing the bat, that would create a little more protection for Chooch batting seventh. Something that would also be a plus for us. With Cody (Asche), if Cody can get hot and swing the bat, if Domonic Brown can get hot and get on base, those are potential base runners for Chooch."