Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Upcoming Lineup Conundrum

The Great Aramis Ramirez Return is tentatively scheduled for Monday, July 6. While we fully expect to have all of the offense's problems solved by the insertion of a guy with a weakened shoulder who hasn't faced live pitching since early May, there are one or two issues that will occur when he returns.

For one, we need to find a spot for him in the lineup. Yes, he will play third and probably bat 4th (though I would argue for 3rd). But who does that push to the bench?

If Lou fielded a lineup featuring the top hitters according to batting average, it might look something like this:

2B Ryan Theriot (.283)
SS Andres Blanco (.240)
1B Derrek Lee (.283)
3B Jake Fox (.321)
LF Micah Hoffpauir (.250)
RF Milton Bradley (.242)
C Geovany Soto (.231)
CF Kosuke Fukudome (.256)

Notice that Soriano is already benched in this scenario, which while we may applaud in principle, it is hardly how this team was ideally constructed to win ballgames. In theory, we should have our 40/40 player somewhere in the lineup.

Now put Ramirez back in that lineup. Huh. The best hitter in this scenario is Jake Fox, who is stationed at third base. If we stick to the rule of highest batting averages making the lineup, we would have to bump Milton Bradley because no one else on this list can play shortstop or catcher.

Otherwise, we have to stick Hoffpauir back on the bench, who has not been great, but certainly has not been the biggest problem offensively since I can actually think of a couple of times he has driven in some big runs for the team.

If we construct the lineup by OBP, then it might look something like this:

LF Alfonso Soriano (.296)
SS Ryan Theriot (.341)
1B Derrek Lee (.364)
3B Jake Fox (.350)
RF Milton Bradley (.355)
C Geovany Soto (.340)
CF Kosuke Fukudome (.377)
2B Mike Fontenot (.303)

Yes, I keep Soriano in the leadoff spot because as putrid as he has been lately, he is a noticeably worse hitter in his career when lower in the order, so if he is in the lineup, it needs to be at leadoff to get anything from him. I also disregard Koyie Hill's .314 OBP because I don't think we can realistically ask him to play either left or second base.

Ramirez's return would push Soriano to the bench and put Fox in left field.

So what if we constructed the lineup by OPS?

2B Alfonso Soriano (.718)
SS Ryan Theriot (.758)
1B Derrek Lee (.834)
3B Jake Fox (.878)
LF Micah Hoffpauir (.743)
RF Milton Bradley (.734)
C Geovany Soto (.722)
CF Kosuke Fukudome (.784)

This pushes all of the mini-middle infielders to the bench except for Muscles Theriot, and forces Soriano back to second base. If not, Zambrano (.660) could learn to play second, or I suppose we could throw Fontenot back out there (.658).

Ramirez's return pushes Milton Bradley to the bench and Fox to left, with Micah moving to right.

So Lou is going to have some choices coming up. He could go by statistics and end up sitting Bradley, Soriano, or both on the bench, or he will have to sit Fox or Hoffpauir, neither of which really deserves it considering the performance of others in the lineup.

Somehow, I have a feeling that unless Ramirez returns as Albert Pujols II, there is going to be much criticism of Lou no matter how he makes his decision. Good luck with that, Lou.


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