Who Should Be Batting Leadoff? Hint: It's Not J-Roll

Does Rollins belong atop the order?

Jimmy Rollins will return to the Phillies leadoff spot Tuesday but questions if he really belongs there will persist especially he he continues to fail.

J-Roll dug his own hole on this one but manager Charlie Manuel helped along the way.

Rollins was never a prototypical leadoff hitter yet Manuel kept plugging him into the top of the lineup.

What should a leadoff batter be? A guy who get’s on base around 40 percent of the time, draws walks often, can run the bases once he gets there and scores lots of runs.

The best leadoff guys should score 100-plus runs without even trying.

The team tried Shane Victorino in the leadoff role but he couldn't get the Phillies moving like Rollins did in the past.

Rollins certainly can score runs. He scored 115-plus runs from 2004 to 2007 and set a career-high with 139 in his MVP season.

So J-Roll scores and he certainly can run the bases (305 career steals and a 82-percent success rate).

But he just doesn’t get on base enough in part because he rarely walks.

His biggest issue was a total lack of plate discipline. He never walked more than 58 times in a season, which means that he saw fewer pitches and probably swung at pitches that weren’t in his wheelhouse. The lack of plate discipline was also evident in his .274 career batting average.

His career on base percentage of .329 was more than 70 points below Rickey Henderson’s career .401 OBP.

It could be unfair to compare Rollins to the greatest leadoff hitter of all time but a former MVP should be held to a higher standard. And, J-Roll doesn’t match what he should be at the top of the lineup.

The career numbers don’t even come close to comparison of how poor Rollins was this season prior to his four-day benching. J-Roll batted a miniscule .211 and only posted a .254 OBP while walking only 16 times in 68 games.

Rollins career high for OBP was .349 last season. The guy who should be hitting leadoff for the Phils never posted an OBP below .375 since he became a full-time Phillie in 2005.

Chase Utley should bat leadoff for the Phightins. He combined all of the most important aspects (average, plate discipline and speed) of a leadoff hitter and added power to boot since he took over full time for the Phils at second base in 2005.

I know what’s going through your head. Utley shouldn’t bat leadoff – he knocks in too many runs.

Well, imagine how many more runs he could create if he was atop the lineup. Heck, he already scored more than 100 runs in each of the last three seasons and even lead the league with 131 runs in 2006.

The left-handed hitter outperformed his career averages (.299 average and .381 OBP) so far this season with a .302 average and .433 OBP. The only man in the National League who got on base more than Utley this season was “Mr. Baseball” Albert Pujols.

Utley’s speed could be questioned because he doesn’t steal many bases -- only 67. But, that number was kept low because the Phils didn’t want to run into an out with sluggers like Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez often hitting directly behind Utley.

Still, Utley’s stolen base success rate (86 percent) was actually higher than Rollins’ rate (82 percent).

Chase never put up big walks numbers in the past but that changed this season -- he leads the team with 48 free passes.

Utley would walk even more as a leadoff guy, because without Ryan Howard batting directly behind him he wouldn’t see as many good pitches and could exhibit his excellent batter’s eye.

Phils manager Charlie Manuel should maybe listen to his own words about what it takes to bat atop the lineup.

"With [Rollins] speed -- and Victorino and [Jayson] Werth and Utley can steal some bases -- that's what sets our offense up at the top of the order," Manuel said, according a report on ESPN.

Why not flip that order around and give Utley a shot to be the guy atop the lineup? He certainly won’t be worse than J-Roll.

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