There’s nothing going on news-wise today, as every national sports writer is trying to figure out how to make a heroic “triumph over adversity” narrative out of Ben Roethlisberger. Tall order, but I’m sure they can find a way to do it. Jason Whitlock will probably go there first. It ought to be fun to read.
In the absence of breaking news, Buster Olney’s musings on various team’s lineups today is worth a look. He concentrates on four teams — the Phillies, Cardinals, Red Sox and Rays — who have some open questions about how to best structure the lineup heading into the season. I find the Red Sox the most interesting because it reminds me most of playing 1980s-era computer simulation games in which you can totally stack your roster (I was always partial to the Lance Hafner simulations). Here’s Buster:
There is no definitive word on how the Red Sox are going to structure what should be a very deep lineup, but generally, a lot of the speculation has had Jacoby Ellsbury hitting leadoff, followed by Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez. Given that Crawford has never liked leading off and would prefer to hit No. 2 or No. 3 — as he did with the Rays — it’s a natural thought to place Ellsbury in the leadoff spot.
I find lineup optimization to be a somewhat boring topic because no lineup tends to last much beyond the first week of the season. Guys get hurt. Others slump. Some managers can’t help but tinker. But still: who is advocating for Ellsbury to bat leadoff?
Buster thinks — and I wholeheartedly agree — that Terry Francona should put Pedroia in the leadoff spot followed by Crawford, Youkilis, Gonzalez and Ortiz in some order or another. Pedroia gets on base at a way, way better clip than Ellsbury, he’s coming off an injury that is way less likely to have messed with his hitting ability than Ellsbury’s and even if they’re both healthy and at their peak ability, it’s not like the Sox are going to be stealing tons of bases with the kind of firepower they have batting in the 2-5 slots.
Are Buster and I out to lunch here? Are there really a lot of people advocating for Ellsbury to lead off? If so, why?