Monday, February 22, 2010

Thoughts on the Red Sox Lineup

First and foremost, my sincerest sympathy to JD Drew. Today he has to show up to work, and he has to do that almost every day until October.


Now that we have that out of the way, I put together what I think the Red Sox lineup should look like this year. There are a lot of new additions, and therefore the lineup could look a lot different. I'm well aware it's not going to be this way, but it should.


RF Drew
2B Pedroia
1B Youkilis
C Martinez
CF Cameron
DH Ortiz
3B Beltre
SS Scutaro
CF Number Two


Drew should lead off because, I don't know if you've heard this from either the self-congratulating general manager or here on HYD Baseball, he had the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders. This was not because of his slugging percentage. Guy has a very high OBP because he walks a lot. He'll be able to play like he wants to because he's supposed to look for walks. And with Beltre, Scutaro, and Number Two hitting in front of him, he can go up looking for walks instead of worrying about hitting the ball and getting RBIs. Plus, if Number Two gets on base and then steals second, this minimizes the effects of weak ground balls to the right side. In fact, that sets Pedroia up for a sacrifice fly.


Pedroia is second because doubles score Drew. I was thinking about putting Youkilis at cleanup, but I want him as close as possible to the guy who walks all the time so he can get some RBIs and so that the team can score some runs. I feel like there will be a man on first half the time Youkilis is up. A double from Youkilis has a better chance to score the guy than a single from Martinez. Martinez is fourth. Should get a lot of RBI singles and doubles.


Cameron is fifth. Whiffs a lot, but won't ground into double plays, hopefully. Martinez is on first base a lot. Ortiz sixth. We just hope he can hit instead of starting a 1-2-3 inning. Beltre is seventh, as he very rarely gets on base. But why have guys on base if Scutaro and Number Two are just going to make outs anyway?


Scutaro's eighth because I will go by his non-2009 performance instead of his 2009 performance. Fewer at-bats for Scutaro and if he will not get hits, he won't get in Number Two's way on the basepaths. I have Number Two ninth instead of leading off because he'll probably start a lot of innings after Ortiz-Beltre-Scutaro go 1-2-3. But he also gets fewer plate appearances, which is fine because he has a low OBP. If Number Two walks and steals second, they might pitch around Drew, starting a chance of a big inning with the good baseball players in Pedroia, Youkilis, and Martinez coming up. If they don't walk him, he scores on a Drew hit or he moves to third on a Drew weak ground ball to second, still increasing the chances that they'll score a run.


Thoughts?

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

DV

That line-up makes a lot of sense. I like JD Drew leading off for all the reasons you stated, but also because I think it has a dual impact on Ellsbury. First, the guy is likely never going to be the type to get on base at a .375 rate or higher. More importantly, he appears more comfortable batting in that spot.

The problem with Drew batting lead-off is that I believe he is averse to the notion. I think I remember reading that he doesn't like it or doesn't feel comfortable there or something like that. It's too bad, too, because if he got on base at the rate he normally does, he'd work out beautifully.

As for the rest of the line-up, there's not much to quibble with. I'm inclined to flip Cameron and Ortiz, but otherwise it gets too right handed heavy at the bottom of the order. I'm going to keep the spirit of your line-up and go with something very similar, but move two names around for better left/right balance:

Drew
Pedroia
Youkilis
Martinez
Cameron
Ortiz
Beltre
Ellsbury
Scutaro

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

Leading him off is the best way to maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses. I believe you're right about him not liking it, I've read that too. But I feel like he doesn't really like to play baseball that much, period. So if he has to suffer through the next eight months because he is not out in his tree stand, he might as well do what's best for the baseball team.

Patrick said...

when you're lineup is slightly short (or has a sizable gap in the abilities of a core 3-4 players and the rest of the lineup), you have two basic options: try to lengthen it with the core group in the middle trying to create more balance or just stack them all up top trying to get the most you can from the core group and then turn the lineup over as much as you can. in my opinion the red sox could give both a legitimate look.

when in this situation i'm always partial to trying to lengthen the lineup and balance it. i think this makes the opposing pitcher work harder and i think it creates more scoring situations as opposed to putting most of your eggs in one basket. in 2004 the yankees didn't have a short lineup (outside of the core they had bernie williams and jorge posada, to start), but did have four elite bats in jeter, rodriguez, sheffield, and matsui. at the end of the year and into the playoffs they decided to stack those four in that order at the top of the lineup to get them as many at bats as possible, which is certainly a valid idea. and in large part it worked. however, the lineup was shortened and there became far too much waiting for the yankees' to get the lineup back to the top it seemed. i can't imagine that makes it tougher on the pitcher like you want to. then, when all four of those guys went cold at once, the yankees were in serious trouble because they had no balance. as i said earlier, most of their eggs were in one basket.

so that's why i would go this route for the sox, as both you and gunn did. drew leading off and ellsbury batting 9th gives the lineup a few different looks as the pitcher works through the order, and that's always a good thing. if you stacked, say, pedroia, youkilis, martinez, and ortiz up top, you'd be maximizing at bats for your best players - which you want to do - but i also think it just makes the rest of the lineup to soft. if a pitcher knows he just has to get through those four, then gets some order of cameron, drew, beltre, scutaro, and ellsbury, he's not going to be too worried about that.

gunn - i like the idea of getting good l/r balance, but i also like the idea of having a real speedster batting 9th. almost becomes a second leadoff man. also, i think it becomes an annoying thing for a pitcher mentally. he finally gets to the 9th guy in the order, and instead of seeing a catcher, or in the NL a pitcher, or maybe a weak hitting second baseman with average speed, he has to deal with a guy who can reach first with a groundball in a hole that gets fielded cleanly. that can't be fun. but again, more than that i think you want ellsbury batting closer to pedroia/youkilis/martinez acting like a second leadoff guy, and not further away from them. you want to look at the lineup backwards from ellsbury and not forward from him, in my opinion.

the gm at work said...

It is more important to have the guy with the second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders in front of the players on the team who actually can hit. I'm actually serious about that. Hitting seventh before Nick Green and Varitek make Drew's walks and second-highest OPS of all AL outfielders completely useless. Hitting first means there is actually some kind of tangible value behind those walks. Something you can't decipher by looking at one line of a stat sheet, Theo.

Having Number Two leading off (assuming a .340 OBP) just means that Pedroia will have the bases empty with one out 11% more than if Drew (assuming a .400 OBP) were leading off. It's really a no-brainer.

Anonymous said...

I agree with sentiment that we need to put JD in leadoff. He's a good leadoff hitter. Good speed, occasional pop, no one on first base that he can hit into a double play. High on base percentage. Plus if Ellsbury (like him batting 9th) is on, I think it's harder to turn a double play on a weak ground ball.

Ultimately I agree that what it comes down to is putting players in position do the best they can with their skill set (unrelated scenario similar concept: I usually do the same thing while out with the Gunn in Old Port, trying to give him the opportunity to make as many outrageous comments as possible).

On your point Pat, I don't like spreading the lineup out. I'd rather bunch my lineup together and try for a few big innings per game as opposed to trying to frustrate the pitcher throughout the course of the game. What would make the most sense i guess is having a spread out lineup and a bunched lineup and being willing to fluctuate a bit series to series. However baseball players are creatures of habit and you can't always do what makes sense.

Patrick said...

bandi -

a big argument can be made for stacking your best guys up, as i said. no question. i just want to clarify that by spreading the lineup out i'm not just doing that to try and make a pitcher work as hard as possible. i just view that as a side benefit (you could argue that making a pitcher go through 4 tough hitters in a row is more work, too). the main reasoning behind lengthening the lineup for me is creating more, albeit likely smaller, scoring chances. so basically it comes down to more scoring chances with less chance of scoring in each chance vs. less scoring chances with more chance of scoring in each chance. you were basically saying that from your side, i just wanted to clarify from my side.

Anonymous said...

Right. Makes sense Pat.

With the Red Sox, do you think we have enough home run pop to make the spread out lineup work? My reason for wanting the stack lineup is that I think we're going to have to string hits together to score because we don't really have the big home run/rbi guys. If you've got guys with a lot of power then the spread out lineup makes sense because if you get one guy on base the next hit could be a 2 run homer. I don't think we have it.

Of course, you could argue in the opposite direction as you point out. If it's a flawed lineup it's a flawed lineup you can only cover it up the best you can.

the gm at work said...

Well, to counter your viewpoint, Pat, let's say that Nancy hits seventh (as he probably will in real life) before Cameron and Scutaro and after either Ortiz or Beltre. Chances are there aren't too many guys on, because the year is not 2004 and therefore Ortiz and Beltre are not good hitters. Even pretending that Drew is a good hitter, you just freakin walk the guy and get to the next two cupcakes. So the pitcher gets to basically face four crappy hitters out of five and the walk does absolutely no damage. The walk can do damage with Nancy at the top of the order hitting in front of players who can hit. When you have liabilities in your offense, the opposing pitcher will have some easy outs. There's no way around it. And there's no use wasting an inevitable JD Drew walk when you can utilize it.

Patrick said...

i don't think that's countering my viewpoint their danno, i think we're in agreement. i'm advocating batting drew leadoff, because i think that's how you lengthen the lineup. batting drew at the bottom shortens it, doesn't maximize his or the team's ability, and makes him easier to deal with. leading off he's a concern for a pitcher in front of pedroia/youkilis/martinez. as you said, he's not lower in the lineup - you either get him out or let him take the walk he probably wants to take. we're saying the same thing here i think. batting drew first lengthens the lineup, because he's a more legitimate bat there. batting him lower shortens it, because he's not going to offer as much individually there.

Anonymous said...

DV

Ortiz was great all the way until he got hurt in May of 2008. I hate seeing him lumped in with a one year wonder like Beltre.

More interestingly though is this idea--Francona should bat Drew lead-off not necessarily because it's best for the team (which it is) but rather because we know he doesn't like JD. If JD doesn't produce in the top spot, he would get slaughtered in the media and it would give Francona the chance to make snide remarks to Epstein every time he saw him around the Fenway park offices. It's a can't-lose situation if you ask me.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

He was irresponsible with his use of vitamins and supplements for more than 2004. Fair enough. Ho ho ho.

How much does Francona not like JD though? I mean, I'll probably put up a short wise-assed post about this around dinnertime tonight, but one of Abraham's short notes about camp today is that Francona told him JD showed up today. Clearly, if he was in camp but no reporters saw him, he showed up, let Francona know he was there, dropped his bags off, scheduled a few appointments with the trainers, looked at the calendar and sighed, and then got the F out of there. But Francona just said that he showed up. He covered for JD on reporting day. I don't think there's too much dislike, despite the F-bombs last summer.

Anonymous said...

DV

Fair point. But at the same time, Francona is a professional. And that's why we like him. He covers for everybody. I don't think he particularly liked Manny or Pedro (and really, if you had to work with those guys, would you like them? I mean, as fans we see the production and eat it up, but otherwise...) but he always, always, always took the heat for those guys whenever he could. The situation with JD Drew is no different. I just know that if I were in Francona's shoes obviously I would want Drew to be as productive as possible, but that if not, I wouldn't mind seeing Epstein have to eat some crow.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

i have to agree with gunn on this separate point. i think francona defending his players has no bearing on whether or not he likes them. i think francona defends his players because he defends his players. i'd be willing to bet he's defended and continues to defend players he doesn't like. i get this sense because i watched joe torre do what i perceived to be the same thing for 12 seasons in new york. i think it's a great managerial (or coaching in any sport) quality.

jason said...

Drew probably doesnt like batting leadoff because that means he may have a few potential extra at bats during the season and he doesnt want to do extra work