Wednesday, February 10, 2016

At the plate, Phils' outfield is best in the weak NL East

The Phillies, quite stunningly, possess the best offensive outfield in the National League East. (It is the worst-hitting division in the majors.)

At the plate, Phils’ outfield is best in the weak NL East

Domonic Brown hits a two-run homer, his 18th of the season, during the seventh inning of the Phillies´ 6-1 win over the Marlins.
Domonic Brown hits a two-run homer, his 18th of the season, during the seventh inning of the Phillies' 6-1 win over the Marlins. David Maialetti/Staff Photographer

MINNEAPOLIS — For 17 straight games, Ben Revere started and manned center field. He hit .257, scored seven runs, stole seven bases, and showed fleeting signs of being a productive cog in the Phillies’ lineup. Then the Phillies arrived to Milwaukee, and John Mayberry Jr. was the centerfielder for three consecutive games.

While Domonic Brown has seized his everyday spot in Charlie Manuel’s lineup, the manager has three outfielders for two spots. It is a situation Manuel favors, although the challenge is discovering the right mix to complement Brown.

“On a team, usually four outfielders can get quite a few at-bats,” he said, “especially if it falls right for you.”

The Phillies, quite stunningly, possess the best offensive outfield in the National League East. (It is the worst-hitting division in the majors.) That rise can be attributed to Brown’s surge. The team’s outfielders have a .729 OPS, which ranked 20th in baseball through Sunday’s games. Baseball’s average is .744 for outfielders.

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Atlanta’s vaunted unit of the Upton brothers and Jason Heyward has stumbled to a .699 OPS. Washington’s star-studded outfield, ransacked by injury, is at .683. The Mets and Marlins, of course, rank at the bottom. There is plenty of baseball to correct course.

Delmon Young debuted in right field May<TH>2, and since then he has the most plate appearances (116) among the three. Revere has 104 and Mayberry 71. Mayberry (.759) has the highest OPS during that period. Young’s .691 OPS is slightly better than Revere’s .660.

“I could see some of those guys getting quite a bit of playing time,” Manuel said.

In other words, there is no set combination. Manuel’s ideal one involves a heavy dose of Young, who was signed to a $750,000 contract late last winter. Young is hitting .232, which would mark a career worst.

Young has already accrued at least $350,000 in additional bonuses. That makes him the team’s highest-paid outfielder. More money can be earned by making weight and constant playing time in the second half of 2013.

The 27-year-old former first-round pick has a hit in 10 of his last 12 games. He has yet to pull balls on a routine basis. Young is most upset about fouling off hittable pitches thrown his way.

“I need to put those balls in play,” Young said.

Manuel is steadfast in his belief in Young’s ability.

“I still think Delmon Young will hit,” Manuel said. “I’ve been saying that.”

Revere’s offensive contributions are less certain. Manuel watched Revere for a brief time in spring training and proclaimed he would bring offense to his lineup. Revere’s numbers will always be fueled by a high batting average because he does not walk or hit for power. He hit .294 for the Twins a season ago and returns to Minnesota with a batting average 50 points lower.

The Phillies envisioned a top-of-the-order guy with the potential for 50 stolen bases.

“He’s on a new team and I think he might be trying too hard,” Manuel said. “I’ve seen him here lately hit the ball better. He hits the ball sharp. He definitely could steal more bases. His offensive game can definitely be better than what it’s been so far this year.”

That is why Mayberry found himself in center. His failures against righthanded pitching have prevented Mayberry from becoming an everyday player. They have improved in 2013, although Mayberry is still best deployed with a lefty on the mound.

“He’s streaky,” Manuel said. “When he’s in those streaks, he pretty much makes you play him.”

The manager would like to say that about Revere and Young, two players for which he anticipated greater things.

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