With eleven days until Boston's first game of the season, it's time for them to start solidifying their 2012 team. I propose a different agenda for manager Bobby Valentine: start experimenting. A good place to start? Swapping Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis in the lineup.
Two Red Sox really stood out to me in 2011. The first was stud second baseman Dustin Pedroia. The second was third baseman Kevin Youkilis. Both were coming off injury riddled 2010s, and it seemed comeback campaigns were imminent.
Pedroia didn't disappoint. He posted his first 20-20 season—finally breaking that 20 home run plateau—while posting the best OBP (.387) and second best OPS (.861) of his career.
On the other end of the spectrum was Kevin Youkilis. Always one with a golden glove, it was believed a move to the hot corner would only make Youk more valuable. Instead, injuries held him to 120 games, with a four year low in home runs, AVG, OBP, SLG and OPS.
Despite hitting a putrid .258, Youkilis managed to post a stellar .373 OBP. His 13.2 walk percentage was his third best since becoming a full time starter in 2006.
We can analyze the loss of power and average, but one thing that Youkilis continued to do well was get on base. It's something that's always been a staple of his game. Looking at Pedroia, his tools continued to develop, culminating in his career high in home runs.
It's because of these reasons that I think a lineup swap would be perfect.
In his career, Youkilis has been solid in the two-hole. He's managed to hit .295/.394/.495, with 75 runs scored in 101 games. In 2007—the last time Boston tasted October glory—Youk spent the majority of the season hitting first or second.
Meanwhile, Pedroia has been ridiculous, hitting fourth in the lineup. His slash line there is .397/.439/.678 with 7 home runs in 31 games.
Now, I doubt a move to the cleanup spot would make Pedroia a 30+ home run player, despite what his splits say. However, it's easy to see that he benefits from having David Ortiz at his back.
This lineup swap would make Boston that much more dangerous on offense. They'd keep an OBP machine in the two spot with Youkilis, while adding even more lethality to the middle of the lineup with Pedroia.
Pitching remains Boston's biggest issue, but if you can't prevent runs, you might as well score more of them.