It might not be till we’re well into the 2010 season, but I think that when the batting order settles down for the Phillies it will go Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Werth, Ibanez, Polanco, Ruiz. In this article, though, Manuel seems to suggest that the Phillies may start the season with Polanco hitting second and Victorino hitting sixth or seventh.

I think he’ll change his mind before 2010 is over. Either way, are the Phillies better off with Polanco or Victorino hitting second?

If you were to make the decision based solely on their numbers from last season, Victorino was clearly the better hitter and the better choice to fill the two-hole in the order. Victorino hit 292/358/445, topping Polanco’s 285/331/396 line for the year in all three categories.

One of Polanco’s biggest problems in 2009 was that he didn’t hit left-handed pitching. At all. Both Polanco and Victorino have been good hitters against lefties over their career — Polanco has a 316/357/462 line against them for his career and Victorino is at 288/357/479. Polanco struggled against them in 2009, though. He played a full season and hit a weak 266/304/434 against left-handed pitching while Victorino pounded away to the tune of 314/385/459.

Given how much better Polanco’s career line against left-handed pitching is than the numbers he put up last season, it sure seems likely he’ll bounce back against lefties in 2010. Lets’ hope so, especially if he’s going to be hitting second against them.

The chart below shows numbers for Victorino and Polanco for ’09 and for their careers along with the average numbers for #2, #6 and #7 hitters in the NL last season (although I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of lineups in ’10 that include Utley, Howard, Werth and Ibanez with none of those players hitting second that would have Victorino hitting sixth). They are ordered by OPS.

  AVG OBP SLG OPS
Victorino ’09 292 358 445 803
Victorino
Career
284 347 428 775
Polanco
Career
303 348 414 762
NL #6 ’09 273 333 423 756
NL #2 ’09 273 337 405 742
Polanco ’09 285 331 396 727
NL #7 ’09 255 319 401 719

So, again, Polanco didn’t have a good 2009. He was outhit by the average NL #2 hitter while Victorino was a lot better than the average #2 hitter. On the other hand, over their careers both players have been better than the average #2 hitter was in the NL in 2009.

The biggest question we’re going to get at least part of an answer to in 2010 is whether the weak ’09 season for Polanco is a fluke or part of a trend. While he and Victorino have very similar numbers over their careers I think it’s very reasonable to expect that Victorino will be the more productive offensive player the rest of the way. Here’s the percentage of plate appearances in which the two have gotten hits, walks or extra-base hits over the past three seasons:

 
Polanco

Victorino
Year % H % BB % XBH % H % BB % XBH
2007 31.2 5.8 7.5 25.1 7.3 7.5
2008 28.3 5.6 7.2 26.6 7.2 8.3
2009 26.1 5.3 6.7 26.1 8.6 8.9

For each of the three categories Polanco’s numbers are down in 2008 and 2009 compared to the previous year. The numbers aren’t as dramatic for Victorino, but his numbers have generally been getting better.

Important to remember is that Polanco had a monster season in 2007, probably the best of his career. He hit a career-high .341 and on-based a career-high .388. So there was a lot of room to fall. In terms of the percentage of plate appearances in which they got a hit or a walk, Polanco buried Victorino in 2007. It was very close in 2008 — 33.86% for Polanco and 33.81% for Victorino with more of Victorino’s hits going for extra-bases. In 2009, Victorino sailed past Polanco. We’ll see if it’s for good or not.

Ben Sheets signed a one-year, $10 million contract with Oakland. The linked article also says that Greg Golson is now a Yankee.

Charlie Manuel has lost about sixty pounds.

MLB.com announced it’s list of the top 50 prospects, which includes Domonic Brown at 14 and Phillippe Aumont at 47 (that link is unusually interesting and includes video of the players). Michael Taylor is 35 and Kyle Drabek 17.