Today’s Lineup vs. Its ’96 Counterparts: Which Is Better?

Beerleaguer was rather harsh in his assessment of the starting lineup the Phillies will be trotting out today, calling it “the worst lineup card in history.” Their performance today didn’t do anything to disprove his assertion. Yes, it truly was awful, but for me the standard by which all bad Phillies team are judged against will be the ’96 squad. It is easily the atrocious LineupPhillies team I’m most familiar with since I actually went to The Vet and Shea Stadium a combined nine times that year to watch it find innovative ways to lose and make me lament that the previous World Series was a scant three years before. With that in mind, I thought I do a quick-and-dirty comparison of today’s lineup to its ’96 counterparts to see which is actually better.

To make a proper comparison, I am purposefully comparing each of today’s starters to the player on the ’96 squad who most closely filled the same role. Thus if a regular starter, such as a Ryan Howard or Chase Utley, is beginning the game on the bench today, then his replacement is getting compared to the ’96 team’s backup player for the position. Admittedly, it’s highly unlikely that the members of the ’96 team that appear below actually constituted a starting lineup on any day of the season, but it would take far too much work for me to examine each box score from that year to determine which ’96 Phillies starting lineup was its worst. So, without further ado…

Starting Pitcher: Dustin McGowan vs. Russ Springer

1996 Leaf Sign SpringerDustin is a reliever and former starter who is being called on to make a spot start today. His closest analog is Russ Springer, who filled a similar role for the ’96 team, appearing in 51 games and starting in seven of them. McGowan has a career WAR of 2.2 and has done nothing to embarrass himself or the team out of the pen this year. Alternatively, Springer entered the ’96 season with a career WAR of -0.5 and finished it with a -0.8

Advantage: 2015 Phillies

Featured card: 1996 Leaf Signature Extended Series Autographs (no #), Russ Springer

Catcher: Cameron Rupp vs. Mike Lieberthal

2014 Immaculate RuppIt’s a shame that we’re comparing backups here because I’d like to take a few moments to talk about lucky the Phillies were in their acquisition of Benito Santiago at the beginning of the ’96 campaign. The club decided they wanted a veteran to fill-in while they waited for Lieberthal to mature enough to become the regular starter, and Santiago filled the role admirably, putting up All-Star caliber numbers. He left the team via free agency following the season and Lieberthal became arguably the best catcher in team history.

We won’t be saying anything remotely similar about Rupp when he takes over for Carlos Ruiz.

Advantage: 1996 Phillies

Featured Card: 2014 Immaculate Collection #108, Cameron Rupp

First Base: Darin Ruf vs. Kevin Jordan

1996 UD CC JordanAt the moment, Ruf is the backup first baseman, so we compare him to Jordan since he started the second most games at the position in ’96. (Interestingly, Jon Zuber and Gene Schall both started nearly as many games at the position as Jordan.) As far as backups go, Jordan actually had a decent season in ’96, providing a 0.5 WAR for the year and an OPS of 93. As much as it pains me to say it, Ruf thus far has been an offensive black hole. In fact, his performance over 15 games in 2015 has eliminated all but 0.1 WAR he accumulated in the first 137 games of his career. Ouch.

Advantage: 1996 Phillies

Featured Card: 1996 Collector’s Choice #33, Kevin Jordan

Second Base: Cesar Hernandez vs. David Doster

1996 Flair Wave of the Future DosterBy now, you’ll have noticed a recurring theme here. Once again, we are comparing backups. If we were comparing starters, this would be a no-brainer of a contest with Utley vs. Morandini. Instead, we have this. It’s actually a fairly close comparison in that both players are/were playing at the age of 25. However, Doster was making his major league debut while this is Hernandez’s third season appearing in the majors. Mind you, Hernandez hasn’t shown much thus far at this level and has a career WAR of -1.0. However, he hasn’t hurt the team this year, or helped them for that matter, in his limited playing time; current ’16 WAR is 0.0. Doster’s 113 plate appearances in ’96 were just as mundane, netting a WAR of 0.1

Advantage: Push

Featured Card: 1996 Flair Wave of the Future #7, David Doster

Third Base: Cody Asche vs. Todd Ziele

2014 Topps Heritage AscheFinally, a chance to compare starters. At first glance, they couldn’t appear more different. Asche is in just his second full year as a starter while Ziele was a respected veteran playing in his eighth major league season. However, both started the season as placeholders while a highly-regarded prospect gained additional seasoning at AAA. Thus far, Asche has already accumulated 0.5 WAR this season, but it’s unlikely he’ll continue at this torrid pace all year long. However, it’s not a stretch to argue that he could exceed the 1.7 WAR Ziele provided before being traded along with Pete Incaviglia to the Orioles for Calvin Maduro and Garrett Stevenson.

Slight edge: 2015 Phillies

Featured Card: 2014 Topps Heritage #75, Cody Asche

Shortstop: Andres Blanco vs. Mike Benjamin

2015 Phillies Team Issue BlancoBefore I tackle this one, I’m glad that thus far Freddy Galvis has proven utterly wrong my assessment of him back on Opening Day. Admittedly, it’s based on a small sample size, but thus far he’s really been a bright spot for the Phillies both on the field at at the plate. I’d love to compare him to Kevin Stocker, but we have another battle of the backups — our fourth out of the five infield positions. I’d like to say I remember something of Mike Benjamin’s ’96 campaign, but I don’t. In fact, I remember nothing at all of him and according to my ticket stubs, I saw him start at short on three different occasions. I suspect Blanco’s ’15 season with the Phillies will be just as memorable.

Advantage: Push

Featured Card: 2015 Phillies Team Issue (no #), Andres Blanco

Left Field: Ben Revere vs. Pete Incaviglia

1995 Score IncavigliaJust our second comparison of starters, and this one isn’t even close. In his three seasons with the Phillies, Incaviglia provided 3.0 WAR and an OPS+ of 106. Revere’s Phillies career thus far: 1.3 WAR and an OPS+ of 85, with 60 more plate appearances. Stolen bases and triples can be exciting, but Revere doesn’t provide enough of either to match the excitement of watching Incaviglia absolutely crushing a pitch. Furthermore, as bad as Incaviglia was in the field, Revere really hasn’t been that much better.

Advantage: 1996 Phillies

Featured Card: 1995 Score #131 Pete Incaviglia

Center Field: Odubel Herrera vs. Ricky Otero

1997 Stadium Club OteroAdmittedly, we’re looking at small samples sizes again, but as the Phillies pointed out on their Twitter feed a couple days ago, Herrera is currently amongst the leaders in several rookie offensive categories. Admittedly, he’s still a work in progress in his transition to the outfield, but he’s quickly proving that the Phillies made the right decision in picking him up in the Rule 5 Draft. Otero, on the other hand, was a passable defensive center fielder, but those skills were completely overshadowed by his offensive deficiencies.

Advantage: 2015 Phillies

Featured card: 1997 Topps Stadium Club #328, Ricky Otero

Right Field: Jeff Francoeur vs. Jim Eisenreich

1996 E-XL EisenreichI’m not even going to dignify this comparison with commentary.

Massive Advantage: 1996 Phillies

Featured Card: 1996 E-XL #244, Jim Eisenreich

Final score: The ’96 squad exceeds today’s lineup at four positions, with two positions being judged a “push.” With some luck today’s lineup might win in a head-to-head match, but they will need a lot of help from the bench. I don’t know about “worst lineup card in history,” but it definitely looks like it could be the worst in my lifetime.

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8 responses to “Today’s Lineup vs. Its ’96 Counterparts: Which Is Better?

  1. Todd Zeile (2,004 career hits and 253 career home runs) and Mike Lieberthal (most games played in franchise history as a Phillies catcher) were the most legitimate major leaguers of either lineup, although Cody Asche has the potential to have a very good and lengthy major leagues career.

  2. The 1997 and 2000 Phillies teams were just as bad as those ’96 klunkers. Who can forget the 1961 team with it’s 22 game losing streak. that’s really when the franchise hit rock bottom.
    Baseball historians will also point out that the Phillies had 30 under .500 finishes in 31 years between 1918 and 1948, with the club rising over .500 once (just barely) at 78-76 in 1932. Collectively, that represents a lot of suffering for Phillies fans.

  3. The Phillies are advancing towards 2,000 players in franchise history. As they opened the season they had 1,956 players on their all-time roster. 8 more have debuted thus far this season so the total number of players is now 1,964. If the current rate of new players per season prevails and there are no strikes or work stoppages the Phillies should see their 2,000th player take the field before the end of the 2017 season.
    By my count, there are photographic images of all but 31 Phillies players. Most of the missing players are 19th Century players, although a couple of players with no known photos played as late as the early 1920s.

  4. steveinphilly

    Dennis, is there some online resource of the photos of Phillies players? And could you list out the 31 that have no photo?

  5. Re-visiting this topic, I think I’ have to say that Cody Asche, despite some eye-catching minor league hitting stats has not shown himself to be better than a .250 hitter in the majors who over the course of a full season will hit 10-15 home runs per year. I think you’ve overrated him and that Zeile of the 1996 team was the better choice.

  6. To Steve in Philly: Well a couple of guys’ photos have miraculously just turned up since July So there are now 29 players out of 1975 (counting the latest Phillies debut of pitcher Colton Murray on 9/2/15) for whom no photos exist. There are 10 players out of the 29 for whom good sketches or drawings exist, but no photos.
    Here’s the list: Asterisks next to players names of those for whom sketches exist, but no photos.** (10 in that category).

    1883: Alonzo Breitenstein, Abe Wolstenholme, Art Benedict, Jack Neagle, Art Hagan, Edgar Smith
    1884: Hezekiah Allen, Jim McElroy, Sparrow Morton, Ed Sixsmith,
    John Crowley**
    1886: John Strike
    1890: John W. Coleman** (not to be confused with an earlier John Coleman)
    1891: Lew Graulich, Ed Cassian, Harry Morelock, John Schulte,
    Walter Plock**
    1892: Jerry Connors
    1894: Lou Johnson**
    1895: Tom Smith** Deke White**
    1896 Harry Keener** William Gallagher **
    1897: Tom Lipp**
    1902: Jacob Fox, Ed Watkins, Harry Felix**
    1920: Walt Walsh

    There’s no specific website that deals with only Phillies photos (Unless I decide to start one). Your best bet online is to go to OOTP (Out Of The Park Developments). They have a photo forum that anyone is free to post photos on or to make requests for photos on and membership is FREE. They have photos of all teams and all eras from the 1870s to the present. They also have a list of players for whom no images are available. They also have a photo forum that covers only major league debuts (Colton Murray’s photo ought to appear there some time today). They also have a negro leagues photo forum (see Minnie Minoso when he first came to America from Cuba to play for the New York Cubans of the Negro Leagues) and a Japanese Leagues photo forum (see a 19 year-old Japanese leagues rookie photo of ICHIRO). So there are plenty of Phillies photos available there (perhaps all of them if you have the time to research it, but it’s not limited to the Phillies

    Steve In Philly, I’m sorry I didn’t see your question until now. I hope this information reaches you..

  7. To Steve in Philly and MLB and Phillies photo collectors:
    Google “Out Of The Park Developmehnts ” – then go to the section
    ” Gambo and T_wil1 Photopack” and click on that to get to the photos forum.
    Out of the park developments may also listed in abbreviated form as’ OOTP’.

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