Trying to get by without their first baseman and second baseman, the Phillies aren’t receiving any help from their third baseman to date: Placido Polanco is hitting .179/.220/.205 in 39 at-bats.
Included in those 39 at-bats for Polanco are six strikeouts. That’s far from an excessive total for most players — Adam Dunn has already racked up three times that many — but it’s sure more than Polanco is used to. One of the game’s top contact hitters, Polanco has struck out once every 13.6 at-bats for his career. His rate this season is twice as high.
Now, 39 at-bats isn’t much of a sample size. But the Phillies were concerned about Polanco going into the season. There were even rumors they tried to ship him to Colorado, but that the Rockies didn’t want him because they weren’t convinced he’d last as a second baseman. Fighting injuries, Polanco lost 50 points of OPS last season, hitting .277/.335/.339 in 469 at-bats. His games played dropped from 153 in 2009 to 132 in 2010 to 122 last year.
The Phillies don’t necessarily need big numbers from Polanco. They like him as a No. 2 hitter, but once they get Chase Utley back, they could just go ahead and drop him to the bottom of the order, with Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Utley occupying the top three spots. They do need Polanco’s defense at third base: the drop off to Ty Wigginton there is huge.
So while replacing Polanco probably isn’t the answer, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if this is it for him as a regular. He’s 36 and increasingly injury prone. Transitioning to a reserve role might be the best thing for him in 2013.
On the other hand, he does have one point in his favor. According to Baseball Reference, his most similar player through age 35 is Julio Franco, suggesting he has another 10-12 years of baseball in front of him.