Link-O-Rama: Not every lineup is a work of art

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* Mark Newman of MLB.com talked to future Hall of Fame managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, and Tony La Russa about the art of filling out a lineup card, and Torre provided my favorite quote: “With our current lineup, you know where [Matt] Kemp, [Andre] Ethier, Manny [Ramirez], and [Rafael] Furcal will be. Those guys will be in the top four or five spots.”
Torre has recently come to his senses by finally using Kemp near the middle of the order, but overall this season the guy with the second-highest batting average and third-best OPS on the Dodgers has been “in the top four or five spots” just 38 times in 139 games. By comparison, Kemp has batted sixth (24), seventh (46), eighth (21), or ninth (3) a total of 94 times. And this is a career .302/.349/.485 hitter who’s batting .306/.363/.506 this season. That’s some art.
* Yesterday the Nationals were thinking about shifting Cristian Guzman to second base in an effort to overhaul their infield defense. Today the Nationals “plan to revamp the bullpen” this offseason. Translation: Teams that lose 100 games in back-to-back seasons are often motivated to make lots of changes.
* Mike Cameron’s strained hamstring is expected to keep him out until at least Friday, causing Adam McCalvy of MLB.com to write that “the Brewers are well-covered in the outfield, with Corey Patterson, Jody Gerut, and Jason Bourgeois all available to play center field.” You know something is structurally wrong with a sentence when “well-covered” and “Corey Patterson” are used in tandem.
* By making his 28th start of the season yesterday Josh Beckett triggered his $12 million option for 2010.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.