Thursday, February 03, 2005

Playing with the lineup

It looks like all of the pieces of the Sox 2005 lineup are in place, so now is as good a time as any to think about the batting order. This is the likely order:

LF: Scott Posednik (L)
2B: Tadahito Iguchi (R)
1B: Konerko (R)
DH: Everret (S)
RF: Dye (R)
C: Pierzynski (L)
CF: Rowand (R)
SS: Uribe (R)
3B: Crede (R)

Manager Ozzie Guillen has gone on record as preferring Rowand to hit lower in the order so there's not as much pressure on him. Iguchi and Uribe might be flip-flopped, too, for the same reason as Iguchi becomes acclimated to baseball in the States. Frank Thomas replaces Everett once he's healthy. That's the only change, provided Everett doesn't have to fill for somebody that tanks in the outfield.

So is this the best lineup? Only if Posednik hits like he did in 2003.

That year, Scotty had a .379 on-base percentage. That was good for only 36th-best in baseball and 22nd-best in the National League. But of course, because the dominant on-base men also tend to be dominant slugging machines, only a handful of the guys in front of him were top-of-the-order hitters. Those players were Derek Jeter, Luis Castillo, Jose Vidro, Jason Kendall, Marcus Giles and Doug Mientkiewicz. None of them were full-time leadoff hitters.

But last year's version of Posednik, the one with a .313 OBP, won't get it done.

Other than that, the lineup seems OK. The lefties and righties are staggered, and there's definitely more balance on this year's squad than in years past.

I'd still do it differently. For instance, I'd bat Rowand second to take advantage of some of his doubles power. The Sox centerfielder cranked 38 in 2004, and should the leadoff man fail to get on and steal, the next-best situation (outside of a home run, that is) is for the No. 2 guy to hit his way onto second base.

It will be interesting to see how long Guillen sticks with Posednik if his OBP hovers near .300. I'm willing to bet he has more patience that I would have in his shoes. But maybe we should give the Sox scouts some credit for believing Posednik's problems last year came from him swinging for the fences.

But how should the lineup look if Posednik can't get on base? Here's my answer:

2B: Iguchi
CF: Rowand
1B: Konerko
LF: Everett
RF: Dye
C: Pierzynski
SS: Uribe
DH: Ross Gload (L)
3B: Crede

I know what everyone is thinking. "Ross #*$#&$ Gload at DH?!?!"

If the Big Hurt comes back in a reasonable time frame, it would help out. Then Everett would just replace Posednik, Thomas would hit third or fourth, and everyone would slide down a spot. Except Crede, who should hit last no matter what.

The lineup probably doesn't matter as much as people think, outside of having enough balance to keep your lineup from getting mowed down by a righty- or lefty-specialist. This year's lineup has the required balance. Now the challenge for Guillen is making sure the right bats are getting to the plate.

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