Chase Headley

Dee Gordon

The best and worst MLB lineups have had to offer so far

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This is a quick look at lineup spots by team through the first five weeks of the season, which have been the most productive and which have been the least. I’m just using OPS, so don’t take this as a study of any sort.

No. 1 hitters
1. Marlins – .894 (.422 OBP)
2. Cardinals – .894 (.387 OBP)
3. Rockies – .880 (.359 OBP)

league avg – .727 (.326 OBP)

28. White Sox – .580 (.287 OBP)
29. Reds – .500 (.233 OBP)
30. Athletics – .487 (.223 OBP)

The Marlins and Yankees are the lone teams getting a .400 OBP from the leadoff spot this year, and while that’s always been the ideal to shoot for, there’s hardly any chance of any team staying that high all season. Last year, only the Cardinals (.369) and Astros (.353) had even .350 OBPs from the leadoff spot.

No. 2 hitters
1. Reds – 1.084
2. Blue Jays – 1.001
3. Angels – .939

league avg – .751

28. Rangers – .560
29. Braves – .551
30. Brewers – .489

The Reds started off with Joey Votto batting second, and he was awesome, amassing an 1.173 OPS with a .474 OBP, six homers and 15 RBI in 17 games. So, of course, they dropped him back to third. Fortunately, Zack Cozart and Marlon Byrd have been pretty great in the two hole themselves, but that’s not going to last.

No. 3 hitters
1. Diamondbacks – 1.074
2. Cubs – 1.056
3. Dodgers – 1.045

league avg – .803

28. Nationals – .614
29. Rays – .557
30. Phillies – .515

The Diamondbacks are exclusively Paul Goldschmidt: he’s started all 32 games batting third.

No. 4 hitters
1. Mariners – 1.155
2. Nationals – .986
3. Royals – .975

league avg – .778

28. Twins – .608
29. Phillies – .576
30. Angels – .574

And the Mariners are all Nelson Cruz: he’s started every game in the cleanup spot and blown away the field.

What’s shocking, or at least would have been over the winter, is that this is the first of four appearances for the Angels in the bottom trio. The cleanup spot used to be Josh Hamilton’s. Now it’s 16 games from David Freese, 12 from Matt Joyce and five from Kole Calhoun (whom they much prefer hitting leadoff).

No. 5 hitters
1. Rockies – .949
2. Athletics – .949
3. Cubs – .846

league avg – .737

28. Angels – .614
29. Phillies – .588
30. Yankees – .576

Just because of the difference in hitting environments, Oakland’s .949 is more impressive than Colorado’s .949. They’re primary No. 5 hitter, Ike Davis, is at .867, but Stephen Vogt has provided quite a boost, with five homers in eight games batting fifth.

No. 6 hitters
1. Yankees – 1.023
2. Royals – .930
3. Dodgers – .869

league avg – .722

28. Cardinals – .549
29. Red Sox – .546
30. Reds – .535

The Yankees being dead last at No. 5 and way out in front at No. 6 is some sort of bizarre fluke. Brian McCann, primarily the No. 5 hitter, has a respectable .704 OPS in 21 games there, but Carlos Beltran (.407 in seven games) and Chase Headley (.435 in four games) have been horrible, dragging it down. On the other hand, both Beltran (.848 in nine games) and Headley (.824 in nine games) have been just fine as No. 6 hitters and they’re further bolstered by Chris Young (1.271 OPS, four HR in seven games) and Alex Rodriguez (2.528 OPS, three HR in three games)

No. 7 hitters
1. Dodgers – .933
2. White Sox – .828
3. Orioles – .787

league avg – .658

28. Red Sox – .434
29. Rangers – .425
30. Angels – .423

It’s the third of four appearances for the Dodgers in the top three. This one is truly a committee. Juan Uribe has started 15 of 32 games as a No. 7 hitter, but he has a modest .668 OPS. Alex Guerrero, Andre Ethier, Yasmani Grandal and Joc Pederson have combined for 15 starts and hit .444 with five homers in 54 at-bats.

Boston, which entered the year with seemingly the game’s deepest lineup, shows up near the bottom for the second straight spot, courtesy of Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Allen Craig. Their No. 7 hitters have combined for seven RBI in 33 games, five of them coming in Daniel Nava’s six starts.

No. 8 hitters
1. Reds – .932
2. Dodgers – .898
3. Marlins – .846

league avg – .673

28. Diamondbacks – .474
29. Angels – .392
30. Cubs – .297

The Reds take the cake for the most inconsistency by lineup spot this year. They top the list at No. 2 and No. 8 while also being last at No. 6 and next to last at No. 1. They don’t have any lineup spot in the .700-.800 OPS range. Their presence here is Cozart doing Cozart things, with some help from Brayan Pena. Even Skip Schumaker went 3-for-5 with two RBI in his one game batting eighth and he’s 4-for-27 with no RBI over the rest of the year.

The Cubs at No. 30 gets a big asterisk here; they’ve exclusively gone with their pitcher batting eighth. For the record, their No. 9 hitters have a .630 OPS.

No. 9 hitters (AL only)
1. Angels – .721
2. Blue Jays – .671
3. Tigers – .648

league avg – .583

13. Royals – .484
14. Rays – .480
15. Indians – .476

We’re taking the NL teams out of this mix and just looking at the AL squads. Oddly enough, the Angels top the list; their No. 9 hitters, mostly Johnny Giavotella, have a higher OPS than any of the spots from No. 3 through No. 8.

So, the absolute best of the lineups to date:

1. Marlins – Dee Gordon
2. Reds – Joey Votto
3. Diamondbacks – Paul Goldschmidt
4. Mariners – Nelson Cruz
5. Rockies – Nolan Arenado
6. Yankees – Chris Young
7. Dodgers – Alex Guerrero
8. Reds – Zack Cozart
9. Angels – Johnny Giavotella

Alex Rodriguez isn’t the Yankees’ backup third baseman any longer

Alex Rodriguez
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Alex Rodriguez, who has started two games at third base playing behind Chase Headley this season, will likely be limited to DH duties for the foreseeable future, manager Joe Girardi told the New York Daily News.

A-Rod has been bothered by a sore left hamstring, and while that’s not a major issue, the Yankees think they can spare him aches and pains by keeping him out of the field. That also probably means no more starts at first base, where he’s played just once this year and looked pretty awkward in doing so.

With A-Rod out of the mix, Stephen Drew has started taking grounders at third base and likely will play there whenever Headley needs a day off. Drew is still the Yankees’ primary second baseman, but the team is looking to work Jose Pirela more into the mix anyway.

Rodriguez entered Tuesday’s game with a .250/.360/.558 line and eight homers in 104 at-bats this season.

And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

Scott Van Slyke
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Dodgers 5, Marlins 3: The Dodgers blew a 2-1 lead in the ninth when Christian Yelich hit a two-run homer. Scott Van Slyke answered back with a three-run walkoff homer in the bottom of the inning. Quite the night for Van Slyke, who screwed up in the fifth by not running home fast enough from third after tagging up, costing his team a run when another baserunner was doubled off. In the seventh he completed a double play in the field by nailing a runner at home plate who himself was trying to tag. Then the walkoff. Great highs, great lows. Such is the stuff of well-lived lives.

Braves 2, Reds 1: For the second straight day the opposition rallies off of Aroldis Chapman in a tie game. One could choose to call it an aberration. Or one could lean into Bryan Price about breaking Old School Rules about using your closer in non-save situations thereby messing with closers’ naturally fragile egos and routines. Let’s go with aberration and leave closer usage shaming for someone else. As it was, Phil Gosselin and Nick Markakis singled off Chapman to open the ninth, Gosselin stole third base and then scored on a wild pitch to give the Braves the 2-1 lead that would hold up.

Note: I’m going to tonight’s Braves-Reds game as a media member. To, like, actually cover the game and maybe write a story about it. I have an idea of what I’m writing about, but if there’s anything particular you’d like to see explored, comment about it.

Orioles 5, Blue Jays 2: After a longer road trip than they had expected, the Orioles are back in Baltimore. And it suited them well as Manny Machado and Chris Davis homered in a three-run first inning, Adam Jones homered later and Ubaldo Jimenez was sharp once again. He struck out nine while allowing two runs, actually, and lowered his ERA to 2.41.

Pirates 4, Phillies 3: The Pirates continue their mastery of the Phillies and win their fourth of five overall. I think this year a lot of teams will discover a mastery of the Phillies, newfound or otherwise.

Yankees 11, Rays 5: CC Sabathia had something like nine runs of run support total in his previous starts this season. Last night the Yankees scored nine while he was in the game. That certainly helped the big guy finally notch his first win of the season but so too did his striking out nine in seven innings. It was a home run parade for the Bombers’ offense, with A-Rod, Chase Headley, Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira all going deep. A-Rod also stole a base. That’s 323 for him. Only 15 stolen bases behind Willie Mays! I wonder if the Yankees will make note of that in their little media fliers.

Brewers 10, White Sox 7: Milwaukee had a 6-0 lead after four innings, and led 7-2 heading into the seventh. They blew that, but late homers from Elian Herrera and Khris Davis put them back on top, turning what could’ve been a game symbolic of a bad team collapsing into a symbolic game of a team with a new manager and a new attitude persevering. Speaking of attitude, Carlos Gomez hit cleanup for the first time and homered and tripled. After the game he said he felt “sexy” hitting cleanup. “It’s a different feeling. I go to the plate like, `I’m the man.'” You are. You’re bad. You’re so bad you should be in detention.

Rangers 8, Royals 2: For the second straight day Adiran Beltre hit a homer, giving him 399 for his career. Prince Fielder and recent callup Thomas Field also went deep. The Royals were understandably not at their best, as they arrived at their hotel at 5:45 AM following Sunday night’s rain-delayed game in Detroit. Say whatever you want about these guys being rich and having great jobs and charter flights and all of that, but it’s ridiculous to play that late on Sunday and then have to travel 1,200 miles and play on Monday. Teams playing Sunday night getaway games should have off-days the following Monday, full stop.

Cubs 4, Mets 3: Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo each homered in the first inning — Bryant into the newly-opened bleachers — giving Jacob deGrom a rude awakening. Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores hit back-to-back-homers of their own later in the game, but the hole was too deep for New York. Three scoreless innings for the Cubs’ pen. Which is a big deal for them given how much of a liability it’s been for them this year.

Nationals 11, Diamondbacks 1: The Nats had a 10-0 lead before folks who had to fight a little extra traffic to get to the game could find their seats. Josh Collmenter gave up nine of those ten runs before being yanked with one out in the second inning. When he is good he is very, very good, but when he is bad he is horrid.

Red Sox 5, Athletics 4: Tied at four entering in the 11th with Pablo Sandoval leading off the inning, a 5-4 Red Sox lead three pitches later. Not bad for his first game back in the Bay Area since Game 5 of the World Series. Oakland has lost six in a row. They’re 0-6 in extra innings.