Kapler not afraid to break tradition with batting order

Gabe Kapler's idea of a Phillies lineup
If you're a baseball purist with an opinion on how a batting order should look, then you're probably going to be frustrated with Gabe Kapler come spring.

See, Kapler is a student of the game, but he's more vested in the sabermetric and analytic side of things. Tradition means nothing unless it jives with data or the right matchup, and general manager Matt Klentak and owner John Middleton love this mindset because it aligns with their own. Right or wrong, it's one reason why Kapler is the guy on the bench entering the 2018 season and not Pete Mackanin.

"I don't have one specific strategy, nor will I ever have one specific strategy," Kapler said in November during his introductory press conference. "But I can tell you I'll take the opinions of the other men in that dugout to make sure I get a well-rounded view of every situation in particular and make the best decision for the Philadelphia Phillies in the moment. And that strategy might change from one game to the next.

"Where I come out on strategy is to find every bit of information, whether it be traditional information, small-ball information, big-ball information, medical information. Just every little detail with how a player is to match up with another player, and then make the decision."

So, what would a hypothetical batting order look like for the Phillies come Opening Day?

Let's first break down the roster defensively and agree on a starting eight. We can pencil Carlos Santana in at first base, Cesar Hernandez at second, Maikel Franco at third, and J.P. Crawford at shortstop. The outfield is trickier, but we know Rhys Hoskins will be in left and Odubel Herrera in center, so that leaves Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr to battle for at-bats in right.

From here, it's logical to think Hernandez, Herrera, Santana, and Hoskins compose the top four slots in the order leaving Crawford, Franco, catcher Jorge Alfaro, and some combination between Williams and Altherr for the final four spots.

Gaffes on the basepath aside, Hernandez has speed and knows how to work a walk, so he could potentially hit leadoff. Herrera hits for a respectable average and is pesky at the plate, so despite a high strikeout rate he can slot behind Hernandez in the two position leaving Santana and Hoskins. Both have pop in their bat but Hoskins has a bit more, so I could envision Santana third and Hoskins fourth.

"In the two-hole, I think it's a really important spot in the lineup, gets on base, comes up with men on base quite frequently," Kapler said at Santana's introductory news conference Wednesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. "Carlos can handle the two-hole. We know that he can slug and hit for power, so the three-hole might be a good spot for him too. So who knows? He can hit anywhere in the lineup and that's part of what makes him especially attractive is, we can mix and match and move him around."

The final four slots in the lineup are fluid depending on who's hot and the matchup at hand, but it could look like Franco, Altherr/Williams. Alfaro, and Crawford.

A potential lineup could look something like this:

1. Hernandez, 4
2. Herrera, 8
3. Santana, 3
4. Hoskins, 7
5. Franco, 5
6. Altherr/Williams, 9
7. Alfaro, 2
8. Crawford, 6

Franco in the five-spot is contingent upon a turnaround from last season, but if he falters everyone else can slide up a spot.

As simple as this exercise seems to be, Kapler is willing to complicate matters to put an order together. This could be a good thing for the win column, but it may be maddening at times if you're a baseball fan in Philadelphia.
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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