Since the first day Sox skipper Robin Ventura released his projected lineup for the 2012 campaign it has been under scrutiny from members of the local sports media. Let me first start by rattling off the lineup in question:
De Aza (CF)
Humber (P, obviously not hitting)
Members of the local sports talk show “Chicago Tribune Live” expressed their displeasure after noticing that Aj Pierzynski had been moved into the two hole, bumping Alexei Ramirez down to the six spot in the lineup. The panel of “experts” went on to ponder aloud how anyone could want AJ batting in the second spot, especially over a guy like Ramirez. What I would like to know is how can you not understand a move like this? David Kaplan and crew then went on to explain that Beckham should be higher in the lineup and that a few guys near the middle of the lineup should be flip flopped.
I love the lineup put forth by Robin, for the first time in years we’re seeing a lineup that makes sense and here’s why.
First of all, De Aza leading it off is a given, he’s a left handed bat who can run and get on base. That brings us to the second spot in the lineup, the spot receiving the most criticism, the spot that a lot of our own Chicago sports media members just don’t understand. Putting Aj Pierzynski in the two hole really illuminates the baseball IQ of Robin Ventura. Traditionally in baseball, you want to put a contact hitter who can hit behind the runner (to the right side) in the second spot in your lineup. As a lefty, Pierzynski has never had a problem pulling the ball to the right side and as a contact hitter he very rarely strikes out. Having a hitter like AJ batting second opens up potential hit and run possibilities as well as sacrifice plays late in the game. Now, on the other side of the “who’s hitting second” discussion, why anyone would be disappointed to see Ramirez get moved down out of this spot is beyond me. Remember what I said about the qualities you need in a second spot hitter? Alexei is the complete opposite of all those qualities. He is a dead pull hitter, who strikes out more than his fair share, and has no concept of hitting the ball behind the runner, he defines what you want in a middle of the order type player. The AJ move is drenched in baseball IQ and I’m happy someone finally did it.
Moving right along to the 3-4-5 spots, I like what Ventura did, putting Rios in the three hole before Konerko. Look for Rios to be the recipient of a lot more fastballs this year as a result of Paulie batting behind him. The reason I like Rios there instead of Dunn is because I think Rios is more likely to start off slow and struggle this season; putting him in front of Konerko will increase his chance of success. Paulie is obviously our clean-up man, there’s no arguing that. Dunn hitting five is a great move; this gives him a chance to watch the pitcher for an extra two hitters and as I alluded to earlier, I think he is going to have a great season this year (indicating that he won’t need the on-deck protection of Konerko as much as Rios).
I like Ramirez hitting sixth as I already discussed, putting a pull hitter with a little bit of power in the six spot is never a bad thing.
Rounding out the lineup are Dayan “The Tank” Viciedo, Morel, and Beckham. I love that bottom three combination. I think Viciedo is going to be a monster if he can settle into his new role as an everyday player and build his confidence. Putting him near the bottom will take some pressure off and allow him to develop. Morel hitting eight only makes sense as (if I could quote the great Ranch Wilder here) “he is known sports fans for his glove, but definitely not for his bat.” (Kudos to anyone who got that Angels in the Outfield reference). Although I will say Brent Morel has shown big signs of improvement at the plate since he has been an everyday player. Last but not least, Gordon Beckham hitting ninth. I like that placement for Bacon because I think he has the talent to be a franchise player, but as we have seen these last two years, his confidence hasn’t been where it needs to be in order for him to produce to his potential. Having him hit ninth not only takes the pressure off him immensely, but it allows him to watch the pitcher throw to eight guys before he has to go up and take his cuts. Look for him to have a big year.
This lineup is built for baseball success, with plenty of talent from top to bottom. I think now that all nine of our starters are where they should be, we are finally set up to put some runs on the board. Last season we saw some questionable-at-best managerial moves hinder the ability of an offense and a team that was picked to win the AL Central by most analysts. With Robin Ventura running things in 2012, get ready to see that team we all expected last season.