Boston Red Sox: 5 Different Lineup Changes to Shake Things Up in Boston
While it is still early, it is not too early for Francona to start playing around with his lineup. The Sox have a bevvy of versatile hitters capable of hitting in different lineup slots.
Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia both have the ability to hit in any of the top three spots in the lineup. Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz are all virtually interchangeable in the middle of the lineup.
On Opening Day, Terry Francona used the following lineup:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury CF
2. Dustin Pedroia 2B
3. Carl Crawford LF
4. Kevin Youkilis 3B
5. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
6. David Ortiz DH
7. Mike Cameron RF
8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
9. Marco Scutaro SS
Cameron only started over lefty J.D. Drew on Opening Day because C.J. Wilson, the Sox opponent, is tough on lefties. Besides that, Francona made two switches for Boston's 1-0 loss on Thursday: flipping Crawford and Pedroia and Gonzalez and Youkilis.
It's time to tweak more. Baseball players can be finicky about where they bat in a lineup. With a few changes (none of them too major), the Red Sox offense that looked so good on paper to start the season, can get back to where it is supposed to be.
Bat Carl Crawford Leadoff
Carl Crawford might not be the most prototypical leadoff hitter (his career OBP is in the .330 range), but he has speed to burn and if he gets on, he can make the opposing pitcher pitch from the stretch early.
Crawford is also sometimes impatient at the plate. Batting him second will reduce Ellsbury's stolen base opportunities over the course of a season because Crawford does not take enough pitches to give runners on base an opportunity to steal.
Bat Marco Scutaro Second
This would be a controversial move for Francona to try, after all, Scutaro is one of the Sox lower tier hitters. It seems ludicrous to give him more at bats by putting him atop the lineup.
Yet, the number two slot in a lineup has historically been used for small-ball players. Scutaro has good bat control for hit and runs, and has historically been a good hitter with two strikes.
If Crawford can get on base in the leadoff spot, Scutaro can take a couple pitches to give Crawford an opportunity to swipe second. Even if that means Scutaro watches two called strikes, the Red Sox are not giving up an at bat.
Put Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz in the Heart of the Order
Adrian Gonzalez is used to batting third, having done so for much of his career in San Diego. He is also the best hitter on the Red Sox, so it doesn't hurt to give him an extra at bat or two.
The most controversial part of this heart of the order is it means Kevin Youkilis moves down to sixth in the lineup. Drastic times call for drastic measures and sometimes it just takes a little shuffle to get a team on track.
Pedroia might not be the typical cleanup hitter, in that he is not one of the top three power hitters on the Red Sox, but he is one of the better pure hitters. When the cleanup hitter walks up to the plate with the bases loaded, you don't need a home run; a hit up the middle gets runs in too.
The Red Sox have been struggling just to get the ball out of the infield with runners in scoring position. Giving Pedroia more opportunities to bat runners in can only help.
Move Ellsbury to 7
Jacoby Ellsbury needs to get his confidence back. Hitting at the top of a struggling lineup is no way to do that.
Ellsbury was hurt last year, but even when he was healthy, he struggled. He batted below the Mendoza Line and struck out seven times in just 21 at bats. Granted, it is a small sample size. But with another slow start, the Sox should move Ellsbury down in the lineup until he regains his 2009 form.
Ideally, Ellsbury would be able to replace Scutaro at the top of the lineup later in the season. Young players often respond well to perceived slights. It might be that a drop in the lineup would give Ellsbury that bit of extra motivation he needs to turn it on.
Put J.D. Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the 8/9 Holes
Although they have yet to prove it on the field this year, the Red Sox have an outstanding offense on paper. How else do you explain a guy with a .387 career OBP batting so low in the lineup?
A strong argument can be made for switching Drew and Scutaro in this proposed lineup, but Drew's power would be wasted if he batted that high in the lineup.
In the Red Sox lineup, when the No. 8 hitter strides to the plate, once the wheels start turning there will be runners on base. Probably lots of them. Drew will have more RBI opportunities batting eighth than second.
In addition, his high OBP could give the top of the lineup more opportunities to drive in runs later in the game.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is not a bad hitter, but on this team, he belongs in the ninth spot.