J-Roll hitting third

By Jason Wojciechowski on June 26, 2008 at 3:21 AM

Tonight's lineup for the Phillies has Jimmy Rollins hitting third. Baseball-Reference tells me that this is the first time Rollins has hit there this year, and the first time he's hit anywhere but first. The Lineup Analysis tool at Baseball Musings tells me that Rollins batting third is a terrible idea. In its list of best lineups, Rollins hits sixth, seventh, or eighth. This makes tons of sense. You know why? Because Jimmy Rollins has a .340 on-base percentage. The only guy with a lower on-base percentage in this lineup (by my estimations using their career numbers combined with this year's numbers to try to eliminate huge flukes like Ryan Howard's bad season thus far) is Pedro Feliz. And it's not like Rollins is making up for it in power, either. He had a .531 SLG last year, but is down to .447 this year, and has a .442 career mark. Even giving him credit for a .460 true SLG, a generous estimate, he should not be hitting in the top half of the lineup, and he most certainly should not be hitting in the lineup's premier spot.

Now, as is usually the case, the manager's actual lineup is far closer to the best-case scenario than the worst case, and the difference between the real lineup and the best one (which would have Pat Burrell's .400 OBP hitting first) is about one run every 25 games, or a little over six runs for the season. It isn't, then, that big a deal. But it's still silly to have one of your lower-half hitters batting third, in the spot that should be occupied by Burrell or Ryan Howard, or even Chris Coste, who's managed near-900 OPS's in two of his three years in the big leagues (of course, his 2008 numbers are subject to decline in the second half of this season; he's also 35, so there's no reason to figure he'll keep getting better or anything).