Is he a man? Is he a machine? Science still isn’t sure. What we do know is that, when he’s hot, he’s one of the best hitters around. But lately, Pat the Bat has been anything but hot.
On September 9, the Phillies gave Burrell a rest. At the time, he was in the middle of a terrible slump, hitting a major-league-low .168 (18 for 107) since August 6, dropping his overall average from .278 to .253.
Since he returned to the lineup, Burrell hasn’t improved much, if at all. It looked like maybe he was poised to break out of his slump over the weekend, hitting a home run against the Brewers. But last night he struck out. And then he struck out again. And Again. And Again. And again.
That’s right, Burrell went 0-5 with five strikeouts, acheiving the elusive platinum sombrero. So, maybe it’s time to talk about other options in left field. This is not the time of year for patience. It’s the time of year where you go with the hot hand. There’s no loyalty in September. You do what it takes to win, period (see: Ned Yost, Brewers).
Burrell was the team’s MVP in the first half of the season. But he’s not hitting now, and he hasn’t hit a lick since July. And let’s face it, if Burrell isn’t hitting, he’s of zero value. In 2007, Burrell allowed 19.6 more runs to score than the average left fielder would have in his 1028 innings. So per inning, Burrell‘s defense is worth negative 0.019 runs. That’s pretty bad.
The Phillies don’t have a ton of other options. Eric Bruntlett is no doubt a better defensive left fielder than Burrell, but it’s unclear how much better, since he didn’t play enough in left field last seaon to get a good idea of his ultimate zone rating. So Taguchi is a fantastic defensive outfielder. He allowed 8.2 fewer runs than the average left fielder. Over his 212 innings, his defense saved .037 runs per inning.
Philadelphia has suffered Burrell’s woeful glove all season, because his hitting made up for his defense. They waited patiently in July and August for him to break out of his slump. But now the season is on the line. Time is running out. And the Phillies can’t afford to be patient.
Is it finally time to bench The Bat?