I began toying with this idea the other day: What if I could build the most cohesive lineup Major League Baseball could assemble?
Not just the top slugger at every position on the field, but a lineup whose pieces compliment each other. It would be a card that would be built to win as many games out of 162 that it could.
Finally, after work last night, I put it all together.
1-(RF)-Ichiro Suzuki-(.310-213 hits-43 stolen bases)
Ichiro is the best leadoff man in baseball, bar none. He gets on base more and strikes out less than Hanley Ramirez and Grady Sizemore.
He's the one player who seems to consistently turn ground balls into singles. When you're looking for a catalyst at the top of the order, Ichiro is just that guy. He's also a brilliant baserunner who is always a stolen base threat. He's even a Gold Glove outfielder.
2-(2B)-Dustin Pedroia-(.326-17 home runs-86 RBI-20 stolen bases)
I had a tough choice here between Pedroia and Ian Kinsler. I wanted a middle infielder with pop and good baserunning skills, but not necessarily a 40 stolen base guy. I went with Pedroia because he's more proven.
Pedroia has Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove, and an MVP accolades already to his name. In theory, he would be there to move Ichiro over and get himself on base. The people behind him in the order are there to bring him home but Pedroia is very good at manufacturing runs.
3-(SS)-Hanley Ramirez-(.301-33 home runs-67 RBI-35 stolen bases)
Hanley Ramirez is one of the most exciting players in the game today and by far the best shortstop. His RBI numbers are low because he has been a leadoff man his whole career.
However, a move to the three hole with another big bat behind him would lead Ramirez to a statistical explosion. He plays solid defense and can steal a base. He's a danger to the opposing pitcher every time he steps up to the plate.
4-(DH)-Ryan Howard-(.251-48 home runs-146 RBI-92 walks)
In order to make the best lineup, I wasn't going to try to find pitchers that can hit. Ryan Howard would be the perfect designated hitter, a middle-of-the-order big bat. No one has had more big flies in the past two years than Howard. If at the DH spot, he wouldn't have to worry about fielding anymore.
Howard also walks alot and draws a lot of intentional passes. When your cleanup guy can't give you a big fly, a walk isn't a bad consolation prize.
5-(1B)-Albert Pujols-(.357-37 home runs-116 RBI-104 walks)
In case you've been on the moon the past five years, Albert Pujols is by and large the best offensive player in the game. He's a career .331 hitter, he averages about 40 home runs and 115 RBI a season, and is an excellent defensive first baseman.
There are no flaws in his game, no holes in his mechanics and while he isn't a stolen base threat, he knows how to run the bases. Not many teams are going to want to walk Ryan Howard if Pujols is coming up next.
6-(CF)-Grady Sizemore-(.268-33 home runs-90 RBI-38 stolen bases)
There probably isn't a better all-around center fielder than Sizemore, who even in the role brought home 90 runs. He's a Gold-Glover, hits for power, and his average probably won't be going lower than .268 for a while.
Sizemore is key here because after facing the murderer's row of Ramirez, Howard, and Pujols you want a guy who can get on base and be aggressive on the base paths.
7-(3B)-David Wright-(.302-33 home runs-124 RBI-15 stolen bases)
Notice a trend? Wright fits the mold of what I'm trying to do with the back of the order. He's a gamer who plays his position as well as anybody, has serious pop, and runs bases efficiently.
He hits well with runners in scoring position and fits this lineup better than Alex Rodriguez who is probably the only third baseman you could make a case for being better than Wright.
8-(LF)-Carlos Beltran-(.284-27 home runs-112 RBI-25 stolen bases)
We're moving away from power now a bit and going toward all-around offensive play and defensive excellence. Beltran fits both of those molds. He hits for average well, has power, drives in a lot of runs, and can steal bases. He's a Gold Glove winner and one of baseball's steadiest performers.
9-(C)-Joe Mauer-(.328-9 home runs-85 RBI-176 hits)
He's one of the league's biggest guys with no home run power, but that's not Joe Mauer's game. He's the game's elite backstop, who gets plenty of hits, drives in runs at key moments and flat out gets on base.
In a lineup like the one I dreamed up, he would be the most prototypical hitter out of the nine-hole baseball has ever seen.
Now, I know people have their own ideas for what the perfect MLB lineup would be, so let me here it. Make the pieces fit together and tell me how I did.