From 2007 until somewhere in 2012, Phillies fans far and wide knew the batting order without even looking. As Philly won five consecutive NL East titles, Jimmy Rollins always led off, Chase Utley always hit third and Ryan Howard was always batting cleanup.
Pat Burrell, Raul Ibanez, Hunter Pence or Jayson Werthhit fifth and Shane Victorino hit second.
That consistency, understandably, has not been there for the Phillies’ most recent squads as their rebuild reached the depths of last place in the division and close to 100 losses.
The team is finally at the end of the rebuilding tunnel and expects to be close to .500 or even better in 2017. Not surprisingly, manager Pete Mackaninis pretty sure he’s got one perfect batting order all set for the regular season.
“I keep looking at the lineup and it always comes up the same for me,” Mackanin said.”[Cesar] Hernandez is a prototypical lead-off hitter, [Howie] Kendrick second, [Odubel] Herrera third, [Maikel]Franco in the fourth spot, behind him [Michael] Saunders, [Tommy]Joseph, [Cameron]Rupp and [Freddy]Galvis.
“Last year I was always at odds to try and put together lineups.This year I find myself going to the same lineup I’ve been thinking about since the winter. It seems to be the right lineup to this point.”
Hernandez, according to Mackanin, has become a more reliable base stealer, overcoming 13 caught stealings with a 7-for-7 mark this spring. He has all the attributes of a lead-off man.
“Cesar started playing with a lot of confidence,” Mackanin said.”He played with confidence on defense and on offense. He takes pitches and knows how to work the count.”
Mackanin is also confident that Herrera — who he says is the Phillies’ best batter for average — is the perfect man to sit in the middle of the order.
“If there are two out and no one on,” Mackanin said, “I want him at the plate to hit a homer or a double.”
Franco has the power to hit at the fourth spot and many baseball pundits expect he has the opportunity to really burst onto the scene and live up to his promise in 2017. Mackinin has noticed that, thanks to hitting coach Matt Stairs, Franco is swinging a little easier and it could be a big benefit.
The manager is also happy to have found his keystone man, at least for now, at first base.
“Tommy Joseph is the everyday first baseman,” Mackanin said, commenting on the impressive spring from journeyman Brock Stassi which led him to make the 25-man roster.”I am going to give everybody as much rest as they need. Stassi can play first base, he can play left field, he will get enough at-bats to stay sharp but he is the everyday first baseman.”