Whether you believe it was the hitters that were at fault for the Phillies’ problems in one run games or not, it still seems important who was playing at the end of the games for the Phils last season. And there were some players who regularly made early exits and others that often arrived late in the game.

Here’s a look at the total number of plate appearances for some key Phillies from 2007 and how many of those plate appearances came after the sixth inning:

 
Total PA

PA after 6th inn

% PA
Rollins 778 225 28.9
Rowand 684 219 32.0
Utley 613 196 32.0
Howard 648 205 31.6
Burrell 598 161 26.9
Victorino 510 173 33.9
Ruiz 429 159 37.1
Dobbs 358 126 35.2
Helms 308 121 39.3
Werth 304 118 38.8
Nunez 287 136 47.4
Coste 137 61 44.5
Bourn 133 83 62.4
       
Total for this group 5787 1983 34.3
Total for team 6537 2148 32.9

For the 13 players grouped above the average number of plate appearances that came after the sixth inning was 34.3. Six of the players above got less than that percentage of their plate appearances before the seventh inning. The seven that didn’t (ie, got a higher percentage of their plate appearances after the sixth inning) were Ruiz, Dobbs, Helms, Werth, Nunez, Coste and Bourn. Of that group, four, Nunez, Bourn, Ruiz and Werth were good defensive players that Manuel often wanted to work into a close came to try and hold the opposition.

Looking at those numbers it’s important to remember that where you hit in the lineup is relevant as well. Jimmy Rollins, for example, played just about every inning and his percentage is low compared to his teammates. But remember that in a game where he lead off the first and got additional plate appearances in the third, sixth and eighth, three of his four plate appearances would have come before the seventh inning. In Rollins’ case the relatively low percentage of plate appearances that came after the sixth inning reflect that he got so many plate appearances before the seventh inning, not that he was taken out early.

Not so about Pat Burrell, the low man on the list with just 26.9 percent of his plate appearances coming after the sixth inning. That’s just preposterous. Using OPS as the measure, Burrell was the third-best hitter on the Phils last season. Overall on the year he got two more plate appearances than Carlos Ruiz after the sixth inning, 12 fewer than Victorino.

Putting your good defensive players in to protect a lead seems to make sense. But I think the Phils can and often do create a problem for themselves playing to protect a one-run lead in a park where a one-run lead often isn’t enough. When Carlos Beltran hits it into the fifteenth row it doesn’t matter much who was playing third base.

Whether it’s a good play or not, it means that you wind up with some strange folks getting a lot of their plate appearances when the game is close and late:

 
Total PA

PA close/late

% PA
Rollins 778 107 13.8
Rowand 684 102 14.9
Utley 613 93 15.2
Howard 648 95 14.7
Burrell 598 83 13.9
Victorino 510 77 15.1
Ruiz 429 80 18.6
Dobbs 358 52 14.5
Helms 308 57 18.5
Werth 304 52 17.1
Nunez 287 57 19.9
Coste 137 24 17.5
Bourn 133 26 19.5
       
Total for this group 5787 905 15.6
Total for team 6537 973 14.9

Of that group the four players getting the highest percentage of their plate appearances in situations where the game is late and close are Nunez, Bourn, Ruiz and Helms. I think most would agree based on their performance last season they were among the weakest offensive players of the 13 (Coste was actually a little worse than Ruiz by OPS last season).

Almost inarguably you want your best players on the field and coming to the plate when the game is close and late. Nunez, Bourn, Ruiz and Helms weren’t the Phillies’ best players last year and certainly not their best hitters. And I think letting them see as much time as they did when the game was on the line hurt the Phils last year and hurt their record in games they won or lost by a run.

The Phillies lost to the Devil Rays yesterday, falling 3-1 to drop to 8-13 in spring training.

Jamie Moyer got the start for the Phils and went 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits and three walks. Only one of the runs was earned thanks to a throwing error by Dobbs. Two of the hits went for extra-bases, both doubles. Romero followed Moyer and went 1 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing a double and a walk. Blackley pitched a scoreless eighth, walking one hitter. Despite his early struggles this spring, Blackley is suddenly looking like a real candidate to win a spot as a lefty out of the pen behind Romero if the Phils carry two lefties and go with someone within the organization.

The Phils had three hits on the day. Jenkins was 1-for-2 with a double, the only hit of the three that went for extra-bases. Snelling was 1-for-2 with a walk and Ruiz 1-for-3 with a single that knocked in Jenkins for the Phillies’ only run. Ruiz is hitting .407 this spring. Helms was 0-for-1.

The Phillies play the Pirates today.

Brad Lidge will pitch in a minor league game today and probably a Grapefruit League game this weekend.

This points out that Dobbs still has an option left. Option or not, the Phils are still going to need a lefty on the bench.

Mike Costanzo came home from the hospital after being born wearing a miniature Phillies’ jacket. The article says he has a chance to make the Orioles opening day roster.