Indians' Lineup: Change Is Good, But Stay Consistent
Eric Wedge has always been against changing his lineup, especially so early in the season.
Last year, he had a different lineup 72 percent of the time. That is over 162 games with 117 different batting orders. This year he has used a different one 85 percent of the time. That is over 34 games with 29 different lineups.
It is early, and certainly that percentage will decrease. But the amount of changing Eric Wedge has done so far in 2008 has been alarming.
Here is the different number of players who have batted in every spot in the order so far this year (spot in order in bold):
1- Two, 2- Seven, 3 - Five, 4- Four, 5- Five, 6- Six, 7- Eight, 8- Seven, 9- Six
Only two times this year has the same lineup been used for two games in a row. To add onto that, only four different lineup have even been used more than once.
That is scary, even though the season is young.
It seems as if Wedge has lost his mind to the point where he will do anything to get some run production. That includes changing up his most important parts of the order.
The lineup spot has been changed the least; aside from Grady Sizemore, David Dellucci was the only one to hit from that spot. Both times came when Sizemore was out with injury.
The alarming part is how many different people have hit from the three, four and five spots in the order.
Your best hitter is typically the third person in the order, your best run producer should hit cleanup, and the next best hitter should probably go fifth.
The five different hitters that have hit from the third spot are: Travis Hafner, Dellucci, Victor Martinez (2), Jhonny Peralta, and Jason Michaels (1).
Hafner started the year there, but after Martinez hurt his hamstring after the first game, Hafner moved down and Peralta slid up into that spot.
However, once Victor returned, Hafner returned to his normal spot. Now, Hafner's struggles have been so bad, Wedge has gone as far as using David Dellucci there, who is far from the best hitter on this team.
The four different clean up hitters this year are: Martinez, Ryan Garko, Hafner, and Peralta.
Martinez is the usual clean up hitter, but he did make a small stint in the third spot when Hafner initially started to struggle. But, because he thrives in that cleanup role, Martinez was moved back.
The five different hitters that started in the fifth hole are: Peralta, Garko, Franklin Gutierrez, Casey Blake, and Ben Francisco.
Here is where I get agitated.
Eric Wedge has no clue which player he wants hitting in this spot, and that is where he is failing at producing a lineup that works.
Obviously, the hitting struggles are the biggest part in this. But his indecisiveness in selecting someone to hit here is hurting things.
Peralta started the year there, and Garko has seen some games there as well. He also has given some looks to Gutierrez, and a few to Blake and Francisco.
The problem is you have two right-handed hitters in Peralta and Garko, but you can't pick one to hit fifth.
Garko is the better hitter, the more consistent one as well. He should have been there from the start, and should have stayed there.
But, his recent struggles have caused Wedge to just completely throw him down even further. Batting Garko in the seventh spot is just a little bit too much off the wall. That just isn't smart, no matter how much he is struggling.
I don't mind the changes; I encourage him to shake things up here while things aren't working.
But, sometimes you can go a little overboard, and here is where he went overboard.
To compare let's take a look at the team the Indians faced most recently, the New York Yankees.
The Yankees have used 32 different lineups in their 36 games (88%). Four lineups have been used more than once, and all of them were two games.
Their three, four, and five hitters have been more consistent and they have two guys injured.
Abreu has done the majority of the three hole hitting, only Derek Jeter (2), and Alex Rodriguez (1) have seen time in that spot.
The clean up spot has seen four different hitters, Rodriguez mainly handles the duty, but because of his injury, the Yankees have been mainly using Hideki Matsui. Shelley Duncan and Jorge Posada have hit in that spot four combined games.
The fifth spot has five different guys. Matsui was the main guy in that spot, but with the Rodriguez injury, he slides up and Giambi is the next in line.
Posada has hit there three times and Morgan Ensberg and Duncan have seen a game there as well.
Obviously, with the injury to Rodriguez, Matsui slides up and that causes all the changes.
The point is, the Yankees have major injuries.
The Indians have had basically the same position players from start to finish. Ben Francisco replacing Michaels is the only difference.
A team in the american league shouldn't be doing this much shuffling, especially with their primary spots in the lineup.
Hafner's struggles warrant a change, but stick with a change and run with it. Don't continue to switch it up and hope something works.
It's like that theory I've thrown around before.
Don't throw a bunch of magnets on the refrigerator and hope one of them sticks.
That isn't the way to fix an ailing lineup. You are trying to try something different, but you need to maintain some sort of consistency.
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