Sunday, January 30, 2011

DV's Lineup Recommendation

Drew RF
Pedroia 2B
Gonzalez 1B
Youkilis 3B
Crawford LF
Varilamacchia C
Ortiz
Scutaro/Lowrie SS
46

I know on many levels, this lineup will never actually happen. Drew will never hit leadoff, mostly because he doesn't like to. They won't hit Varilamacchia ahead of Ortiz, and they won't hit Crawford fifth. Whatever. There's a lot of things that make too much sense to actually happen. I'm lobbying for a second consecutive season for JD Drew to be this team's leadoff hitter, and here's (still) why. Ask Theo: JD does "the one thing that's the most important as an offensive player, and that's get on base." (I thought you were gonna ask me about that.)

Drew frequently comes up to the plate with no intention to do anything except draw a walk, and why not utilize that in front of guys who can hit instead of guys like Ortiz or Varitek who just ground into double plays? The fact that 46 is hitting last in my think tank, every time he gets an infield hit and steals second enhances the possibility that Drew walks and there are two guys on for the guys who are capable of playing competent baseball.

I like Gonzalez third because not only does he get a lot of hits, extra-base hits, and home runs, but he led the league in walks in 2009. Similar to Drew, your standard Pedroia double can often lead to Gonzalez walking and Youkilis hitting a two-run double. Carl Crawford will not contribute the same kind of thing here. So I have him fifth, once again utilizing the "secondary leadoff hitter" idea in front of guys in Varitek and Saltalamacchia who can bunt him to second (if there's no steal) or third (if there is a steal) - opening up the probability of an Ortiz single or sacrifice fly from June through the end of the season. Crawford before Varilamacchia also can potentially break up double plays by sliding into the middle infielder or stealing a base and taking the GIDP out of the question.

46 should not lead off and should remain at the bottom of the order. Not enough walks. Too many strikeouts looking. A one-tool player who really shouldn't have that many at-bats. And, as I already mentioned, his one tool of getting infield hits on dribblers and stealing second base enhances Drew's ability to walk and score on 50 Pedroia doubles throughout the year.

You will also see the good mix of left-right-left-right throughout this proposed lineup, thereby screwing up the LOOGY/ROOGY strategies of other teams. This is more of a coincidence than anything else.

Pat, it's been several hours since St. John's beat Duke. Hopefully it's either subsided or you've called your doctor by now.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

DV

A lot of things to like about this line-up, including the left/right balance and getting JD Drew up top so he can get on base. I also like keeping Ellsbury at the bottom of the order. He hasn't shown us enough to merit any other placement.

Now, there are a couple of ways I'd tweak this thing--first, we know that JD Drew isn't going to lead off--the Sox just won't do it, even if it does maximize his abilities. So who leads off? In a perfect world, you'd bat Crawford first, but he apparently hates that spot. So does he bat second? Third? Here's what I'd like to see happen:

Crawford
Pedroia
Gonzalez
Youkilis
Ortiz
Lowrie
Drew
Catcher
Ellsbury

Gives you perfect left/right balance, plenty of speed at both ends of the line-up, lots of pop in the middle, and JD Drew not batting in a position where he's counted on to drive in runs (because he's only good for about 65 of those per year anyway). You'll probably notice that Lowrie is batting sixth and that may seem forced. It probably is, but at the same time I could see him having a really solid year--something like .285, 18 homers, 75 RBI with a respectable OPS.

Anyway, we know that Crawford doesn't like to lead-off so that last line-up is probably a non-starter. So, they'll probably go with something like this:

Ellsbury
Pedroia
Crawford
Gonzalez
Youkilis
Ortiz
Drew
Lowrie/Scutaro
Catcher

Is that the worst configuration? Probably not. But I doubt it's the best, either. I don't like Youkilis batting so low in the order and Ellsbury up top is not wildly efficient. Neither is having Crawford bat third. He's not a power guy and it takes away RBI opportunities from your main RBI guys (Gonzalez and Youkilis). Anyway, we'll see how it plays out and hopefully everybody hits well so it doesn't matter where you put 'em.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

a duke fan buddy of mine who was also at the game texted me in the second half - when the route was already on - asking if i needed to buy an extra ticket for it. thought you'd appreciate that line. i thought i'd come down from the win a little bit when i woke up today, but i flipped on the sports center highlights for the 8th time before heading out the door to school and on my way saw that they got the back page of the daily news. then i was right back into a frenzy, felt like i did walking out of the garden yesterday again. this is a signature win for this program on a number of levels: stopping their recent swoon in emphatic fashion, making a huge addition to their tournament resume, lavin's first major national out of conference win, recruiting, visibility, on and on. duke hasn't lost by that much to an unranked opponent in 15 years. they have been the best program in college basketball for two decades, so you can't understate a program that is trying to rebuild itself - both this season and in the bigger picture - running them out of the gym on national television.

regarding the sox lineup, the best way to order the first five is very obvious in my opinion:

pedroia
crawford
gonzalez
youkilis
ortiz

left/right balance is a great thing to have if you can get it, but it is not essential, and it should never be the driving force to a lineup. you might want to stay away from three in a row if you can, but two is not something you have to worry about, especially when the players are of the caliber of crawford and gonzalez. they both hit righties better for their career, but neither is helpless against lefties. gonzalez hit .337 against lefties last year, .278 against righties, a substantial reverse split so we'll see if that continues. sure, you expose yourself to one reliever pitching to both of them, but that isn't more important than the lineup maximizing the players' abilities. crawford is a 2 hitter, gonzalez is a 3 hitter, youkilis is a 4 hitter. it's just what they are. pedroia can bat 1 or 2 without it making a difference, and at this stage in his career ortiz is best used 5 or 6. in this case 5, because the bottom of the sox order is somewhere between below average and terrible on paper.

and there in lies the problem. ideally you'd like to bat drew 6th because he's the best overall player of the remaining 4 in the lineup, but unlike crawford/gonz you can't stack he and ortiz against lefties. i agree with gunn that leaves lowrie/scutaro batting 6th, but even at their high ends (like the numbers gunn mentioned) that's a poor 6 hitter in the AL. then you have drew/catcher/ellsbury at the bottom, which, especially with a lefty on the mound, is not going to be a run producing part of the lineup. that puts a lot of pressure on the top. you can't bat ellsbury 1. the 1 hitter got something like 151 more plate appearances than the 9 hitter for the yankees last year. i'm sure that's the case for most teams. think about it: the only way the 1 hitter can go even a single game without having an extra PA than the 9 hitter is when the 9 hitter makes the last out. in every other scenario, the 1 hitter gets an extra PA. so you need to give those ~150 to a superior player (pedroia/crawford) and take those ~150 away from an inferior player (ellsbury).

even despite the lineup concerns at the bottom, i'd go the original route i mentioned. bat drew 7th so that you can bat ortiz 5, live with lowrie/scutaro 6. let the top of the order carry you, and do it by creating the most natural lineup:

pedroia
crawford
gonzalez
youkilis
ortiz
lowrie/scutaro
drew
catcher
ellsbury