So, if Ryan Howard is on the DL and Jim Thome can’t play first, who should be playing first base for the Phillies? In a recent post I suggested that Ty Wigginton’s career numbers make him look like a good candidate to fill in against lefties, but not against righties. I also suggested that when the other team starts a righty with Howard and Thome unavailable to play first, it looks like between left field and first base there’s an opportunity for the Phils to start two players from the group of Wigginton, Laynce Nix, John Mayberry, Domonic Brown and maybe Juan Pierre.

So, of those five, who are the best choices offensively to play at first and in left?

Remembering that in 2011, the average NL first baseman hit 270/350/451 with an wOBA of .346, here are the numbers against righties for those five players as well as what each of them did against right-handed pitching in 2011:

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Wigginton career 3238 261 313 437 329
Wigginton 2011 319 235 292 413 310
Mayberry career 205 236 317 445 325
Mayberry 2011 176 250 330 455 334
Brown career 230 239 322 408 324
Brown 2011 174 237 328 401 326
Nix career 1584 253 296 451 320
Nix 2011 320 263 306 475 341
Pierre career 5549 293 339 369 313
Pierre 2011 536 264 296 325 276

The first thing is that none of those numbers are real good. Remembering that the average NL first baseman put up a wOBA of .346 in 2011, nearly all of the numbers on the table above don’t even come close to that — the lone exception is Laynce Nix’s effort against righties from last year in which he put up a wOBA of .341 despite on-basing .306.

Just for giggles, here’s the numbers for Thome and Howard, lefties that really can hit righties and have played first in their careers (although in the interest of full disclosure, Thome hasn’t seen significant time at first since 2005 and likely won’t in 2012, either):

PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Howard career 2948 298 397 623 416
Howard 2011 459 266 370 550 383
Thome career 7256 293 428 612 432
Thome 2011 233 257 352 470 353

So it’s safe to say that Howard and Thome have been better against righties over their careers than the five guys in the first table.

Back to our five guys. If you put them in order by career wOBA against righties, the list looks like this:

  1. Wigginton, .329
  2. Mayberry, .325
  3. Brown, .324
  4. Nix, .320
  5. Pierre, .313

Again, it’s bad news that Ty Wigginton tops that list cause he’s a career 261/313/437 hitter against righties. You really don’t want a guy who’s a career 261/313/437 hitter against righties playing first base for you against them. If you order them by what they did in 2011, the list looks like this:

  1. Nix, .341
  2. Mayberry, .334
  3. Brown, .326
  4. Wigginton, .310
  5. Pierre, .276

Sure looks like the answer is not Pierre, but beyond that it gets a little confusing. Part of what makes it confusing is that Mayberry and Brown have so few plate appearances — they each have less than 250 plate appearances against righties for their career while Nix and Wigginton both have at least 1,500. Beyond that, Wigginton’s career numbers against righties are a little better than Nix’s, but Nix’s numbers over the last few seasons top Wigginton’s. Tune in next time.

This article about the Phillies rotation and guys to watch reminds that Austin Hyatt, who will be in Spring Training as an NRI, struck out 171 batters in 154 1/3 innings for Reading last season while throwing to a 3.85 ERA over 28 starts.