Ben Revere aims to improve on-base percentage with Phillies

Phils outfielder Ben Revere works on his bunting. He hit the ball 92.2 percent of the time during the last three seasons.
Phils outfielder Ben Revere works on his bunting. He hit the ball 92.2 percent of the time during the last three seasons. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: February 20, 2013

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Nine Phillies, all 30 or older, crammed the Big Kids table inside the Phillies clubhouse Monday afternoon and ate their sandwiches. Ben Revere, 24 and every bit as youthful, carried his lunch into the room. He is allowed to sit with the veterans, given his status as starting centerfielder, but bypassed them.

Minutes later, Revere made two non-roster players laugh. He sent 11 tweets before 1 p.m. Monday, the first at 4:46 a.m., and promised he would nap later.

When Revere swings a bat, he exudes just as much control. He made contact 92.2 percent of the time during the last three seasons, a rate exceeded by only three players.

"I guarantee you the fans will like him if he gets on base," Charlie Manuel said.

That is the dilemma. Revere is gifted with unparalleled bat control. He swings fewer times than the average major-league player. He hit a career-high .294 with Minnesota in 2012.

But he reached base at a .333 clip, which ranked 78th among qualified hitters. No one who hit at least .294 in 2012 had a lower on-base percentage than Revere.

Revere has goals, so start there. He said he wants to walk more. Three players with at least 500 plate appearances in 2012 - Ruben Tejada, Alcides Escobar, and Dayan Viciedo - had fewer walks than Revere.

Only three times has a Phillies player stolen more than 50 bases in the last 113 years. That would be Sherry Magee (55 in 1906) and Juan Samuel twice (72 in 1984 and 53 in 1985). Revere is taking aim at that feat, too.

One would beget the other. If Revere raises his walks, he would reach base more often as a constant stolen-base threat. And the more he is on base, the temptation to bat him at the top of the lineup grows.

The annual criticism of Jimmy Rollins as a leadoff hitter is his low on-base percentage. His career .328 clip is better than Revere's .319 in three seasons.

"I think to get on base he'll have to improve his stroke some," Manuel said of Revere. "But I think he can do it because he's a strong little guy. And just playing the game more might help him, because his speed definitely shows up. I don't know exactly where he'll hit because I haven't seen him enough."

With Rollins dispatched to the World Baseball Classic beginning in early March, Revere will probably step into the leadoff spot during Grapefruit League play. He batted either first or second in 214 of his 229 career starts with the Twins.

Where he will slot in Manuel's lineup is under discussion. He could very well be near the bottom, although a strong spring could change that thinking.

"It'll be good to get a chance," Revere said. "We'll see. It's up to Charlie to make the decision."

Manuel wants an improved approach, and it starts with Revere being smarter with his selection. It's not that Revere swings too much - he ranked below the major-league average. But he made contact with 84.3 percent of pitches outside the strike zone when swinging, according to FanGraphs.com. (The league average was 66.8 percent.) The more bad pitches Revere hits, the less likely it is good contact.

Having such sharp bat control contributed to a .294 batting average last season. Should his batting average drop in accordance with an uptick in on-base percentage, it would make Revere a more valuable player.

It is a challenge. Revere said he found himself wondering last season how he could reach base more often but never solved it.

"Usually, pitchers are going to try to challenge me," Revere said. "Normally I don't swing at the first pitch. They'll throw me a fastball right there. Then they'll throw me a fastball or curveball right there, and if it's in my zone, I'm going to swing.

"It's kind of tough if they're throwing strikes at me."

|
|
|
|
|