Tito still plotting lineup

What will the Red Sox’s starting lineup be on Opening Night — which is one week from today — against the Yankees? Well, the nine players are a given, but manager Terry Francona said he is still trying to figure out the exact order.

One “A” lineup the Sox have had out there a few times this spring is Ellsbury-Pedroia-Martinez-Youkilis-Ortiz-Drew-Beltre-Cameron-Scutaro. But the one dilemma with that alignment is that the five-six spots are back-to-back lefties and the last three spots are all righties.

Francona said he recently had assistant director of baseball operations Zach Scott do some statistical research for him, so he is waiting for some answers on that.

“Tthere’s probably going to be some things in our lineup where either you’re going to set it up for the beginning or the end. I don’t know that there’s a way to set it up where it works perfect. We have a few more right-handers then we’ve had in the past,” Francona said. “They may line up together. I don’t know. We’ll see. That lineup we’ve used so far this year, we’ve had 7-8-9 have been right-handed, five and six have been right-handed. I don’t know that that sounds perfect.

“At the same time, there’s other things we’re trying to account for also so we’ll see. The one thing I don’t want to do is put a lineup out there for Opening Night because it’s [CC] Sabathia that’s not our lineup. I think sometimes that can get overdone. We’ll see.”

Marco Scutaro has the ability to hit at the top or bottom of the order, and Francona has enjoyed the shortstop’s attitude.

“He’s really good about it,” Francona said. “He goes, ‘just put me out there, I’ll play.’ He’s really good about that.”

In other news:

Phenom Casey Kelly will make a one-day return to Major League camp on Tuedsay when he starts against the Rays in Port Charlotte. Tim Wakefield will stay back in Fort Myers that day and throw three innings in a Minor League game, and then come back on three days rest and start the exhibition game against the Nationals in D.C. on April 3.

Kelly’s workload is being monitored closely, similar to Jon Lester in 2006, because his innings will take a significant jump this year. At any rate, it will be fun to watch him pitch again.

“I think it will be a nice day to let him start,” Francona said. “It will be fun for us to get to watch. I think it will be a good experience for him.”

Kelly is expected to throw 60-65 pitches.

Corner infielder Mike Lowell dodged a bullet with that foul ball he nailed off his left knee on Friday. Lowell seemed to be moving around well before Sunday’s game and should play third base on either Monday or Tuesday.

Monday will be a busy day for Francona and his staff. Boof Bonser, Manny Declarmen and Daisuke Matsuzaka will all pitch in the Minors in the afternoon, and Josh Beckett, Scott Schoeneweis and Alan Embree are all on tap that night at home against the Rays.

Outfielder Jeremy Hermida is fine, a day after tweaking his right hamstring. He should return soon.

Big game today, as the Red Sox can clinch the vaunted Mayor’s Cup Trophy with a win against the cross-town Twins.

28 Comments

Well, I think Tito is going to have to settle for that lefty-righty problem every once in a while, since that is what Theo has given him to work with. I wonder, though, if Beltre will remain in that 7-slot for long. I doubt it.

Greg, you think Beltre will be dropped in the order?

No, Arnie. I think the 7 slot is too low for Beltre. I could see Beltre and Drew swapping places. If he gets off to the start that Vault and others seem to think, he could go higher. But what do I know? ;) GO SOX!

Well,
As strong as the Sox pitching is this year, the outfield is just as unpredictable. Even now as the season approaches, I can’t believe Mike Cameron is a starter. When Drew goes down, and he will, outside of Ellsbury, this will be the Sox achilles heal. I can live with Beltre and Scuturo as they will provide great defense for the pitching staff and will carry themselves at the plate as needed but your outfield has to pack some kind of punch in the lineup and the Sox have to rank down in the league in that category. The Yankees are kind of in the same boat but their infield is where their offense is. Granderson is good too. This outfield outside of Ellsbury scares me. If Drew could stay healthy the Sox would get away with Cameron’s weak bat but we all know about Drew…..someone tell me I’m wrong so I can feel better. Shutting up for now!!!! Go Sox!!!!!

Craig, the Sox are going to win a ton of 3 to 2 games this year! A ton! The days of scoring runs in order to win games are gone. Remember the Ravens team that won the Super Bowl after scoring only 16 points on offense all year? That will be the Sox this season. No more getting tired out running the bases all year long! We don’t need no stinking runs!!!

What the Sox are gambling on is that Beltre will have a breakout year and Cameron will make contact. Drew will stay healthy and Scutaro will again have a career year. And the bullpen will pitch to its ultimate capacity all the time. Not too much to ask.

Craig I agree with you 100%. The bullpen scares me a bit but I do like Schoeneweis– good move by Theo. I still think N.Y. and T.B. are better than Boston but then again at this time last year I thought Boston was the team to beat, so what do I know. LOL!! At least we’ll see real baseball a week from tonight, assuming the weather is good in Boston.

Brian and Craig, if both of you would not mind sending me an e-mail, I want to bring you both up to speed on something I’ve been working on for the season. My e-mail is:
g.wienke@charter.net.
If you wouldn’t mind doing so in the next day or so, that would help me. Thanks! GO SOX!

I’m back to defend yet again….your evening cup of optimism is coming atcha!! I know – what will you do since the Sox Nation likes to live in the duldrums…..

Let’s see J.D. Drew and the injury thing – in 2008 Drew played 109 games due to some back issues, etc. However 3 out of the last 4 years?? 137, 140, 146 games with 500+ AB each season. Oh and did I mention he plays a stellar RF and boasts a 0.900+ OPS bat to boot…What he doesn’t smack 40 bombs and drive in 120 runs and crash into walls….Aww, I’m sorry, so he’s just very good instead of great

Cameron – lets see all he’s done is hit 20+ dingers the last 4 years along with a 0.800 OPS and play super-stellar defense in CF. Folks like to point out that he strikes-out a ton….guess what! he struck out less than Jason Bay! Add to the fact that he is a very highly respercted clubhouse guy – that last one was for those “feelings” fans!!

See – rosy I tell ya!

The Sox will possibly lose a lot of 3-2 games as well. I am concerned but not worried about the bullpen. If your name is not Paplebon, Bard, and Okajima (to some degree) who you can really trust. I can see three starters will give up an average of 2-3 runs in 5+ innings. Who are the reliable middle relievers to bridge over to Bard and Pap. I think Cameron, Beltre and Hermidia will be fine. Theo must have a good resson to rid of Flushing Bay.

i would bat JD 7th between beltre and cameron if for no other reason than to help turn the lineup over. cameron and beltre are not big BA or OBP guys. yeah they will run into one 20 or so times a year but both will strike out 150+ times so having someone between them who does get on base would help in getting back to the top of the order which is obviously where the strengh is. this season is really all about ortiz though. if he has a big year i think they will be fine for the wild card. if he struggles it’ll be hard for them to hold off TB.

I bow down humbly in the presence of such gernatses.

STELLAR RIGHT FIELD?????? DREW??????? yeah, okay!!!

I dont have a problem with Cameron, except that he has displaced a phenomenal center fielder in Jacoby Ellsbury.

… and commentiong on something from the last thread: There are quite a few teams that would take DiceK

Arnie–still a hoot after all these years!!!! Keep it up, you make me laugh when I want to cry!!!! Ellen–I think the White Sox guy who said no one wants Dice-K is trying to
“Jedi Mind Screw” Theo into trading him to the White Sox for two Pop-Tarts and a six-pack of Yoo Hoo. Dice-K may come in handy before it’s all said and done. Vault–I appreciate your rose colored glasses, did you steal them from Ellen? The only thing about JD Drew is his injuries are nagging injuries which usually get worse as you get older instead of better. If he can stay in the line-up I think that would help immensely and would stabilize the outfield. Yes Jason Bay struck out more than Cameron but Cameron was hurt the first 6 weeks or so last year. If he knocks in 119 runs like Bay did last year than we’ll call it a wash on that one. I do think that Cameron is a good clubhouse guy and teammate. But if the Sox outfield is a merry-go-round this year as the SS position has been…..that is not good. The defense looks awesome and the pitching does too so in the end…Arnie may have it nailed. Greg, I received your message on my e-mail. I have to set up a yahoo e-mail account. I’ll get off my dead butt and do it soon. Sunday is almost here!!!!!!!!! Go Sox!!!!!

That’s great, Craig, I wasn’t sure I had your e-mail address correct.
Vault, the only thing I will say further to you on your cup o’ rosy is that the simple fact that I may be skeptical about a player does NOT mean I will not be rooting like crazy for the guy, be he Drew, Cameron, Beltre, or anyone else Theo has brought on board. I simply want to see how they get it done in the pressure atmosphere that is the AL East division.

And yes, like I have said before, Drew has been plenty clutch many times, esp. in the playoffs. I will give him credit for that ANY day. I want our new additions to do likewise.

Vault, your optimism at this time of year is refreshing indeed! Your stats give me a headache, but you do think positively!
And I like how you defend Theo’s signings. I get the feeling that since Theo is a “moneyball” guy and thinks like you, you would be quite happy if he signed a corpse. “He shows great patience at the plate, and NEVER gets injured.” Anyway, I also hope that OPS wins a lot of games for the Sox.
This year Tito will have to manage the bullpen with great skill because the Sox will not be able to OPS their way out of too many late inning deficits in 2010. They simply don’t have the fire power to 3-run-homer very many games no matter how you try to manipulate the stats.
GO SOX!!!

Vault, I have a piece of advice for you. If you want to be taken seriously on this blog, you might consider dispensing with the condescending prefaces to your posts. It gives one the impression that you are peering down your nose at us knuckle-dragging swamp dwellers. A consequence of that is a lessening of value of the opinion that follows. Treat us as equals and you will be welcomed a little more warmly. Just a thought.

I believe Tito is going to have to do a lot of plotting with what he has to work with. Someone said above Ortiz is the key and I have to agree with that. He has got to produce or the Sox are in trouble. Ellsbury, Pedroia, Martinez, and Youk are as good as it gets. Everything beyond that is a question mark and that’s too many question marks to take into a season. Ortiz is a huge key, but I just think his big days are over. I’d rather have Lowell as the DH. His hitting days are not over. Drew is a solid ball player, not worth what he’s getting paid, but a solid ball player. Of course, the question is will he stay healthy? There’s a lot of potential in Cameron, Beltre and Scutaro, in my mind are unknown qunatities that were signed to fill holes that weren’t going to be filled any other way.

Starting pitching in today’s game is over rated. Games aren’t generally decided in six innings which is a quality start for most starters. Except if you’re Doc Halladay, a third of most starts are no decisions. Games are won or lost by the bullpen. We’ll see how that goes, but my faith in Papelbon is diminished. I hope he proves me wrong.

Bottom line for me is that I see the Sox finishing third or fourth in the division. I don’t think they can keep up with the Yanks or the Rays, and if they fall too far behind, it could get worse.

Not drinking the Kool-Aid, eh, Garry?
I hope Vault turns out to be right. I, like so many here, worry that there isn’t enough muscle in the line-up to compete in the AL East or that the bullpen can hold a lead often enough.
How’s the back?

While (again) I am not reading too much into ST stats, I am pleased that Papi has begun to rediscover a HR stroke. I hope he can carry that into the reg. season. Not being a “hero or zero” I hope he might carry an avg. above the Mendoza Line to go along with some power.
GO SOX!

I’m seeing Theo on MLBTV right now.. Right there with Rem Dawg and Don Orsillo.. HERE COMES THE SEASON!!!
REDSOX:”TIS THIE REASON FOR THIS SEASON”

Really Ellen? You are one of the most short-sighted RS fans I have ever seen, and that’s saying something. You have an irrational hatred of Drew that I can’t understand at all. Yes actually, Drew DOES play a great right field. No, he’s not an emotional dirt dog like Nixon was, but he gets the job done. As Vault already mentioned as well, except for the one year where he was played with back troubles (and still played 100 games), Drew has been just as consistent as any outfielder. He’s missed at most 7-10 games a year to mild injuries; I see some players get that much time off just because they need a rest. And Arnie, you complain about Vault’s condescending tone, then you look down on stats like OPS because they “give me headaches”. OPS, as I’m sure you know, is slugging percentage plus on-base percentage. How is that not a useful stat? Having a high OPS means you hit a lot of extra-base hits and have good patience at the plate.

And Ellen, Cameron moving Ellsbury to left field is likely going to be a very good thing for Jacoby. Ellsbury does not have the instincts Cameron has to man center field. I’m guessing you guys don’t believe in any stats after RBI, or BA, but his defense was rated as one of the worst last year, only getting the GG because of some impressive dives. What those numbers suggest is that even though he can make those big dives more than someone like Cameron can, Cameron can make the same plays without needing the big dive, because he is better at getting a jump on the ball. Ellsbury also had to compensate for Bay in left field, which for a young player still improving on defense was tough. Having him in left field will take some of the pressure off, and make for a phenomenal defense. Plus, this is a bit more speculative, but if Westmoreland, or Fuentes, is ready for MLB time in a year or two, we might appreciate having Ellsbury in left field even more.

I realize that the big concern with the RS this year is their power numbers. Remember guys, we will have 6-7 starters who will hit 20+ home runs this year. Nearly every team in MLB would wish to have that kind of a power problem. You are starting to sound like Yankees fans; now that we don’t have THE BEST offense in the league, that hits THE MOST home runs in the league, we’re suddenly one of the weakest. This is still an EXTREMELY potent offense that will hit much more homers than the average team. They will score 830+ runs, and overall be one of the top five offenses. When you add in the fact that they have one of the top 3-5 rotations, and have a bullpen capable of big things (although more question marks there in middle relief), this is still an extremely formidable team that we should be proud of.

Hi Bosmaine, welcome!
My reasons for mentioning Vault’s condescending tone go back several months and relate to his insinuation that only HIS cherry-picked stats should count in any discussion.( And yes, I know what the stats mean, but I also think that sometimes in baseball the stats are over-thought.) Maybe Vault didn’t mean that, but that’s the way it seemed to me.
You have your opinion and I have mine, but I don’t see Cameron, Drew and Beltre, not to mention Scutaro, striking fear into an opposing pitcher’s heart. I hope your version is correct.
By the way, Maine is a spectacularly beautiful state. I have friends there. The Sox rule in Maine!

Hey, arnie.

I’ll take a look at some other comments then, to see what you mean. I’ll take your word for it for now, but I just wanted to make that point since the stats he was citing were actually perfectly valid numbers to bring up in discussion.

About the offense, I have been also posting on another site, MLBTR, about the same thing, and I came up with what I think is a fitting way to describe how we’ll do. Another commenter mentioned the Mariners as a comparison; a team that praises defense and pitching over offense. They won 85 games last year, not bad at all. They won 85 games, while scoring the FEWEST RUNS in the American League (28th in the majors)! 640 runs for the whole year. Their strong pitching and DOMINANT defense brought them from mediocrity to a winning ballclub, good enough to contend against most NL teams. ;) Now. It’s pretty clear that, even with Lee and Hernandez heading up Seattle’s rotation (and Lee is now injured for a bit), the Red Sox have the stronger rotation by far. Seattle has the much better defense, but blogs ranking teams by defense have put the Red Sox at about 6th in the majors this year, so still pretty damn good. And offense. Sure, Boston won’t have any bashers. But they’ll score nearly 850 runs, barring any major injury. And if they’re not on track by June, they’ll make the big move for a hitter (I’m looking at you, AGon). Add that to the dominant pitching and very strong defense, and we’re looking at 95, 100 wins. Sure, we may still have to compete with the Yanks for #1. That’s how damn good they are. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t dominant either.

Sure, Cameron, Drew, Beltre, and Scutaro don’t “strike fear into an opposing pitcher’s heart”. I agree wholeheartedly with you on that. However, please remember that you just named four players who are going to be hitting 6-9. That looks like a pretty deep lineup to me. Look at the Yanks; sure, players like Swisher or Johnson aren’t going to “strike fear” in anyone, but they’re pretty damn good for where they bat. Now, where I do see your concern is the middle of the lineup. Yes, V-Mart and Youkilis are both legit boppers, but we all know that they’re not built for the #4 slot. They both project to hit about 25 home runs. Very solid, but not scary #4 numbers. And Ortiz. He’s the big question mark that I see. For him, we’ll just have to wait a week or two to see if he slumps again. I strongly doubt he’s going to do much worse than he did last year; how much he’ll improve, if at all, is my question. He’s looked pretty solid this spring; lets see if it holds up. If it does, and he hits a mere 7 home runs more in the first 6 weeks than he did last year, and a mere 11 RBI’s more, suddenly Big Papi is himself again, with 35/110. I think a lot of people are fooled by the .238 average. I think if he doesn’t slump this year, he’ll do just fine. My projection for him: .275/35/110. He may do better on BA than that, if he pick up his bat speed again, and he may be a couple home runs off, but I think he’ll perform well.

All in all, after yet another extremely rambly post, I think the only big gamble the Red Sox are taking is on Ortiz, and so far it looks like it may pay off. And again, if it doesn’t, they won’t wait it out 6 weeks again. They will make that move for another power hitter as soon as it becomes clear it’s needed.

Quickly, arnie, I agree with you in part about over-thought stats. When people start bringing things up like wOBA, or VORP, or anything else with 4 or more letters in the acronym, I get worried. However, there are some, including OPS, which really aren’t that strange. With OPS, that argument doesn’t really stand up to me, as it’s a pretty straight forward and useful stat :) UZR/150 is one I like, simply because it’s the best gauge around for defense, but that’s still not consistent and doesn’t give the whole story, as hard as it tries. I too thought for a while stats were depended on too much, but now I take the approach of working with the stats, as well as watching the player to see if there is anything else for me to learn. I think stats are very beneficial for players like, well, J.D. Drew, because he gets such a bad rap from his fanbase, for a lot of really weak reasons. Not enough home runs, not enough emotion, gets hurt (this is the weakest one, once you look at one of the most basic stats…games played). Sure, he’s overpaid. But it’s not in the sense that most people have it, that he’s being paid 14m when he should only be getting 5m or something. I think he’s worth 10 million, just not 14 million. So, while he’s overpaid, he’s still worth a lot, and he’s treated mostly like garbage.

Damn, I talk a lot. Sorry about that! :P

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