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Is Batting Pence Third A Good Move?

For much of the season, the Phillies’ ineptitude in the three-hole has resulted in many missed opportunities with runners in scoring position. With little production from the third batter in the lineup, manager Charlie Manuel has resorted to inserting Hunter Pence third in the lineup, hoping not to only get Pence feeling confident at the plate again, but to get some much-needed production from that spot in the order.

But is Pence the right guy for the job?

With 162 at-bats as the cleanup-hitter in 2012, Pence has appeared out of place at times and feeling a little panicked in the batter’s box. All of this, presumably, is because he’s in unfamiliar territory. Philadelphia acquired him because of the protection he would provide Ryan Howard, but with the injury-stricken first-baseman still recovering from an Achilles tear, Pence was left to fill the void at the four-hole. Never being known as a power-hitter – having just a career-high total of 25 home runs in a season – Pence was by no means the right guy to bat cleanup.

So after seeing the rightfielder struggle to improve his .210 average with runners in scoring position, Manuel’s decision to move him to third appears to be a smart move.

Surprisingly, it seems strange it took Manuel so long to make the switch because batting third is the place Pence has been the most comfortable throughout his career. With a career-high 892 at-bats in that spot (most of which were with the Houston Astros), the All-Star outfielder has amassed a .303 average with 138 RBIs and 34 HRs.

So why is he more productive batting third in the lineup?

It seems that when he has the responsibility of hitting fourth, Pence applies too much pressure on himself. Feeling the need to be aggressive at the plate, he often finds himself swinging out of his shoes and failing to wait for his pitch. Every Phillies fan, at some point this season, questioned the Texas native for flailing away at the first pitch of an at-bat and harmlessly grounding out to the left side of the infield.

While there’s no way to change Pence’s approach at the plate, the best thing the Phillies can do at this point is put Pence in a position he feels the most confident at, and right now, that is the three-hole.

Now the real question is whether or not this alteration will continue to stick around when Chase Utley and Howard come back from their rehab assignments. Whenever the Big Stick is fully healthy, it’s safe to say that he will start off right where he left off as the team’s cleanup hitter.

So that leaves Utley. While there’s no way to get into the mind of Manuel, I have to believe they would like to get the second baseman back into his normal spot in the order, leaving Howard as the cleanup and Pence back down to fifth.

Right now, Pence is better suited for the third spot in the lineup, but whenever the two injured stars return, I think it’s reasonable to drop Pence to five, especially after his stellar 2011 campaign in that spot. Batting behind Howard, the 29-year old hit .325 with 22 RBIs and seven homers in 33 games. Similarly, he compiled a .324 average and 70 RBIs in 102 games (split between the Astros and Phillies) as the third hitter in the order last season.

While he has been productive at seemingly every position other than cleanup, the Phillies really can’t go wrong if they decide to bat him third or fourth. I believe it all depends on how Utley is swinging the bat when he’s healthy and also how well Pence is performing as the current three-hole hitter.

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Posted by on May 29 2012. Filed under BREAKING NEWS, News, Outfielders, Phillies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

17 Comments for “Is Batting Pence Third A Good Move?”

  1. Why does everyone still paint Utley as a key contributor? He has been in decline for years now and didnt do much when he came back last year. I dont expect much from him, if anything.

  2. exactly wild, the more I think about it the more I get steamed about Utley, sitting on a chair, where’s the pressure from Amaro to get his arze on the field, see if you can play, contribute, damn, you are hurting the phillies, s#%t or get off the pot for crying out oud, if you can’t play, good riddance, retire, free up some money to sign Hamels, Amaro YOU STINK

  3. I agree Wild_BK and have screamed this very thing over the Off-Season to Deaf Ears. The Phils were burned by Utley’s lack of communication the previous off-season and he has publicly stated that he will not have surgery under any circumstances..(not sure if it’s a religious thing with Utley or what)
    I think Utley’s plan is to attempt to play 60-80 games a season for the duration of his contract and show that he’s attempting to play..
    Many Fans have become like the Phils Front Office and who are just too plain too sentimental in their assesments of a players current and future ability and production.. It’s happened with Utley, It happened with this years Signings of Jim Thome & Jimmy Rollins for old time’s sake instead of looking to the Future.. ..

  4. All of this and I am still amazed that they are only 4 games out of first!

  5. at least jroll is playing, attempting to earn his paycheck, I am sensing what you just stated paulman and if its true he’s hurting this team, its time for the phillies management to get tough with Utley, “look, are you going to play or what, you are doing us no good gently rehabbing, play or retire”

  6. I think Utley is withholding surgery for 3 Reasons,

    #1) He doesn’t want surgery on his knees for religious reasons (a complete guess on my part and probably not true)
    #2) Had been told and drilled into his ming that Surgery will not help with his degenerative,chronic knee issues at all (a very strong possiblitiy)
    #3) He’s afrad that by having Surgery, it will be exposed tha he was a juicer (Steroids/HGH) which has helped degenerate his knee tissues,etc,etc and has most likely caused his back and hip ailments ( This is my best guess that can never be proven)

  7. How do anabolic steroids have anything to do with degenerating connective tissue? HGH helps heal cartiledge, tendons and ligaments. It would possibly have prevented the issues from which he currently suffers. Equipoise has the reputation of strengthening connective structures. Dianabol does have the side effect of occasional back pain, but it goes away when the drug is discontinued, and the back is not the knees. They are two different body parts. Corticosteriods, which are legal and very common, can cause hip issues due to the fact of their use contributing to robbing calcium from bone mass, but that is a completely different category of drug.

  8. it has nothing to do with it Joe, but when you are an uneducated dolt who has nothing better to do but to post nonsense, musings, relay stats, trade rumors, not from first hand or even remote knowledge, you become the disparaging voice, you cannot reason with a fool, gcobb would be a far better place if two people checked out permanently as they offer mostly nonsense, no creativity, and usuually agenda laden, and always stats gleened from their fingertips through use of the computer, look, I can be a tolerant guym but for some asshole like paulman to make the charge of steroids, he just deserves to get his ass kicked, but he would never have the guts to make any such charge to an athlete’s face, he is a gutless punk, wimp,anti fan, but cajoler of the ignorant

  9. I really don’t think anyone should expect a lot from Utley this year either. I doubt Charlie Manuel is thinking about it. I still think Rollins should get moved back to lead-off with Pierre behind him, Pence in third, Chooch still in the Clean-up, then probably Victorino, Galvis, Wiggington/Thome/Mayberry.

  10. Jake, I’m glad you are finally seeing my way about Amaro. Especially after you ripped me a new arse, last year, for speaking the truth, about that fraud!

  11. Paul, you & I have been screaming the same $#!t for over 2 years now. This teams window is shut. They are too old, broken down, diminished skill-wise, & have ZERO trade chips & ZERO position prospects, anywhere ready to help the team. Amaro & everyone of the talent evaluaters, that are on this team, needs to be fired!!! He did nothing for this team since he took over, but over-inflate the payroll with overpriced, bad contracts & AARP members, & DID NOTHING to prepare for replacing the diminishing, injured, old players on this team. He actually managed to make the team much older, with all of this off-seasons moves. Now with the injuries to Worley (who they are going to get hurt again, by rushing him back) Halladay, Howard, & Utley, we have ZERO trade chips. Unless they can somehow get something for Victorino, Rollins, Polanco & Blanton. Lee has a NMC & Hamels needs to be re-signed, no matter what, not traded. But the wanna-be golden boy will manage to F^#@ that up too. Another team that needs to be blown up. Thank God the Birds & Flyers are in the thick of things, because it’s going to take a few years to clean this mess up. Start with Amaro & Manuel, & move on. Remember, we wouldn’t have even won in 2008, if it weren’t for Wade, Arbuckle & their scouting staff, building this nucleus. Gillick gets the credit. that IMHO, he doesn’t deserve. When he traded Abreu, his initial intentions were to rebuild, but he GOT LUCKY, picking up 3 trash heap players, in Lidge, Werth & Victorino, that put them over the top. Lidge was a cast off, Werth & Victorino were nobody, underachieving, minor leaguer’s. This team makes me want to puke watching them, when I do stay awake. I haven’t felt like this towards them since the late 90’s!

  12. Paul, BTW, your wrong about steroids & the degeneration of tissues. If it were his bones, organs & bad arthritis, then I’d agree with you. But the muscles & tissues, benefit from steroids, if taken in the proper cycles. NOT ABUSED!

  13. JoeF, he has a long history of hip issues, so it could be a very good possibility. Who knows? We don’t have any proof, nor will we probably ever know. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, to figure out something is rotten in Denmark. I don’t care how hard he plays & beats his body up, no one breaks down as fast as he did, at his age, for nothing. It wasn’t like when he started breaking down, a few years ago, he was ready for an old age home. He wasn’t even 30 yet, when he started having hip & knee issues.

  14. Most athletes shoot their steroids/hgh/peds in the Hip area.. Pure speculation on my part, but has anyone seend a players’s body breakdown with various injuries as quickly as Utlyey’s.. One thing I do know is ever since JC Romero was busted in the spring of 2009 for using PED’s and suspended for 50 games, Utles game,productivity and body began to break down from his hip,back,knees,oblique, etc,etc.. Coincidence, who know’s, but I suspect he stopped using in 2009 after Romero’s bust and hence his breakdown of his health began… Again pure specualtion, but look at his #’s before then and after then.. Utley’s not a big guy and here he was hitting 30-35 HR’s back in 2007/2008 and since then, has fallen back to his natural Power #’s which is about 15-20 HR’s a year.. Anyone remember Orioles OF Brady Anderson…
    I think Utley followed a similar path to what happened to Brady Anderson..

  15. Paulman, I repeat, if he were putting HGH into his hip area, his hip would be HEALTHIER, not worse. Yes, we have all seen players break down, ever heard of Bo Jackson? Remember a guy nicknamed the Boston Strangler? Utley just has shot knees, that is all. You are not just making things up this time, what you are doing is slander.

    Paulman has all kinds of time to be on this site all day because he has an unstoppable urge to inappropriately touch children. Only by barricading himself in his house and not being out in society can he avoid molesting them. I am not sure, it could just be a coincidence, who knows, but i am just sayin’. There you go, I have as many facts for my hypothesis as you do.

  16. If it was HGH Joe, who knows what he was putting in his body if anything..
    Utley has had other issues then his Knees, How’s a professional athlete body who was in excellent shape of a sudden breakdown that fast Joe… How do you explain that..

  17. If it was HGH it would have been making him healthier, not accelerating breakdown. What PED attacks cartilege? Go find a steriod that does so, I doubt you will be successful. He has been grinding away at the cushions in his knees for years, and it is finally coming to a head as he ages. All athletes come apart as the years add up. Otherwise they would all play until the are 50. Why has Jimmy Rollins bat speed left vanished? Age. Why is Thome’s back shot? Age. Why can’t Brad Lidge go 48 for 48 as a closer anymore? Age. Utley is 33, not 23. He played a million games, never took days off, probably played with soreness for quite awhile, until he couldn’t anymore. I can’t bench 265 anymore, know why? Age. Bet your 40 time isn’t what it was as a senior in high school, because you are older, things don’t stretch and heal like they once did. Age. Money will not change you, but time will take you on.

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