So who is going to play first base for the Phils against right-handed pitching while Howard is out? Jim Thome is the obvious answer if he can get onto the field, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of optimism that is going to happen with much regularity. Let’s hope for the best, but I think we have to assume we won’t be seeing much at all of him at first base this year.

So what’s Plan B? Or C or D, for that matter?

Ty Wigginton is the first guy that leaps to mind. But while his career numbers make him look like a solid fill-in against left-handed pitching, his numbers against righties have to make you wary about penciling him in against right-handed pitching too often. Here are Wigginton’s career numbers against lefties and righties as well as the average for NL first basemen in 2011:

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Wiggonton career vs L 1288 274 353 461 359
Wigginton career vs R 3238 261 313 437 329
2011 NL average 1B 270 350 451 346

The right-handed hitting Wigginton has been significantly better against left-handed pitching than right over his career. His isolated power against lefties and righties has been similar (.187 against lefties and .176 against righties), but he has a lower average against righties and has drawn walks at a much lower rate. Over his career, Wigginton has walked in about 10.5% of his plate appearances against lefties, but only about 6.0% of his plate appearances against righties. The combination of the slightly lower average against righties and the significantly worse walk rate against them adds up to a .313 career on-base percentage against right-handed pitching. And that makes it tough if you want to play first base against righties.

His numbers against righties over the last three years have actually been a little worse than his career numbers. Here’s what he’s done against righties since 2009:

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
2011 vs R 319 235 292 413 310
2010 vs R 476 252 307 436 325
2009 vs R 275 285 313 437 326

Ew.

The .285 he hit against righties with the Orioles in 2009 looks nice, but he also showed the least power of the three seasons that year, posting and isolated power of .154 against righties (.184 in 2010 and .178 in 2011). He hasn’t on-based better than .313 against righties in any of the last three years.

Over the last two seasons, between the Orioles and Rockies, Wigginton has gotten 795 plate appearances in which he has hit 245/301/427 against right-handed pitching. In each of the last three seasons, Wigginton’s wOBA against right-handed pitching has been worse than it was in the previous season. 2008 was probably Wigginton’s best year against righties — he hit 265/322/488 in 311 plate appearances for the Astros that year.

Bottom line for me is that I’m hoping we don’t see a whole lot of Wigginton starting at first against right-handed pitching. If everybody is healthy, the best options against a right-handed starter to me appear to include:

  • The righty Mayberry at first and the lefty Nix in left or vice-versa
  • The lefty Brown in left and Mayberry or Nix, probably the lefty Nix instead of the righty Mayberry, at first

The other bottom line for me is that against a righty you can get two of Nix, Mayberry, Wigginton and Brown (or Pierre) into the lineup between first and left. Of those five players, Nix, Mayberry and Wigginton are the three I would guess are likely to appear at first for the Phils this year. I’d also guess Nix, Mayberry and Brown will appear in left. I’ll look at this more in a future post, but Brown in left and Nix at first against a righty with Howard out seems like the best way to go to me.

This article suggests it was the ’93 Phillies and not Jonah Hill that inspired Moneyball. Or something like that.