Nov 2, 2009, 4:32 PM EDT
It was the obvious issue when GM Ruben Amaro opted for Raul Ibanez over Pat Burrell last winter: the Phillies would have big problems against left-handed pitching with so much of their power coming from the left side.
It turned out to be a non-factor during the regular season. Ibanez, who went into the year with a career OPS of 740 against left-handers, delivered a remarkable .285/.359/.639 line in 144 at-bats versus southpaws. Chase Utley came in at .288/.417/.545. Jayson Werth, the one right-handed hitter in the middle of the order, destroyed lefties to the tune of a 1080 OPS. Only Ryan Howard struggled against them, finishing at .207/.298/.356.
The Phillies also didn’t have any problems with lefties in the first two rounds of the postseason. The Rockies didn’t have any left-handed starters to throw in the NLDS, and the Phillies got to both Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf in the NLCS.
The Yankees, though, set it up so that they’d be able to throw a lefty five times in the seven games of the World Series. The Phillies have held their own against CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, but they’ve lost two of the three games started by the pair so far. Utley, who has taken Sabathia deep twice, is the only left-handed hitter producing right now. He’s slugging .933 in four games.
Howard and Ibanez are a combined 6-for-33 with no homers and an incredible 19/0 K/BB ratio. Switch-hitters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino are both hitting just .200, though they’ve at least managed six walks between them. Besides Utley, Werth and Carlos Ruiz have been the team’s best hitters.
And that’s where manager Charlie Manuel’s lineup has failed. Adjustments could have been made to give the right-handed hitters more chances to produce runs. Manuel used to be willing to put Werth in the second spot in the order. Victorino could also be moved around as well. Manuel, though, has stuck with the exact same lineup, excepting only the DH games, in every postseason contest so far.
Right now, all of the Phillies’ production is coming from the third, fifth and eighth spots in the lineup. Since no one else is getting on base, all seven of their homers through four games have been solo shots. The inability to sustain any sort of rally is the biggest reason the Phillies are about to lose the World Series.
I’ll be hosting a live chat during Game 5 of the World Series tonight. Check back at 8 pm EST.
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