Friday, February 26, 2010

Let's talk Batting Order

First, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome myself back to my blog. I've been absent for a while for a number of reasons that I won't bother getting into.

Spring Training is finally here, so I'm going to jump right on the bandwagon and write an entry in which I make a bunch of speculations about the potential Blue Jays batting order for the upcoming season.

Now, before you go on calling me crazy I would like to point out that I don't expect that there's any possibility of my “ideal” batting order ever being put into use. Then again, Cito is one of the only men left in baseball who seems to be crazier than I am.

I should also point out that I am creating this line-up while trying my best to ignore any statistics from previous seasons. Instead, I am basing everything on what I believe the players are capable of based on the tools that they bring to the plate.

Furthermore, most of the line-up projections that I've read so far this year – and there have been many – have focused on deciding which Blue Jay best fits a specific role. While I don't think that there is anything inherently wrong with this method, I don't think that it's the only option for creating an effective batting order.

What I have attempted to create with this line-up is a batting order which focuses on finding the role which best suits – or nurtures - the skill set, and in some cases mental limitations, of the Blue Jays whose production will be most needed if the Jays want to look competitive at any point this season. />

  1. Vernon Wells - CF

  2. Aaron Hill - 2B

  3. Adam Lind - LF

  4. Randy Ruiz - DH

  5. Travis Snider - RF

  6. Edwin Encarnacion - 3B

  7. Lyle Overbay - 1B

  8. John Buck - C

  9. Alex Gonzalez - SS

Here's my thought process:

Despite being a consistent source of disappointment to anyone who considers himself a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, Vernon Wells remains one of the most talented players to put on the uniform each day. I am a firm believer that if he's ever going to approach his full potential again, the Blue Jays are going to have to find a way to get him into the game early and often. While Wells has been something of a free swinger throughout his career - a trait that is normally not becoming of a lead-off hitter - I believe that if he's actually healthy this year he is easily talented enough to change his approach and become the most effective option at the top of the order. I believe that Wells will find himself greatly improved if he doesn't feel like he's expected to hit 25+ home-runs. Additionally, Wells is still a pretty good base-runner and probably the closest thing to a steal threat that the Jays have this year.

My first choice for Vernon was actually to have him hitting in the two-hole. I decided that Hill is more vital to the Jays, though, and that his ideal slot would therefore trump Wells'. I thought about batting Hill fourth, but ultimately decided that a good number of his home-runs from last year could very easily turn into scorched doubles instead. Being the Jays second best hitter I decided that he's at his most dangerous hitting before the best.

Adam Lind is the Blue Jays best hitter. He's said that he's uncomfortable hitting fourth. I can't think of any reason that justifies moving him out of his comfort zone this season. However silly I find his belief that he won't hit as well elsewhere in the order, I expect him to be at his best if his confidence is left alone for now.

At the end of last season I had very little faith in Randy Ruiz being able to maintain the power that he showed us in September. Seeing the pictures from camp of a leaner, meaner Ruiz, I've changed my mind. This guy obviously has the drive and determination to get his shot, and maintain his performance.

Travis Snider has all the tools to be a heart-of-the-order guy someday. Let's put some faith in him right now. There's a thought process out there somewhere which says he'll benefit from taking less meaningful at-bats and working his way up the order slowly. Instead, I think that he ends up suffering with the knowledge that he's expected to play at a certain level to earn what's supposed to be his rightful position. He may also feel that the team doesn't have faith in him, which in turn damages the faith he has in himself. We tried that last year, and it seemed to fail pretty miserably.

Edwin Encarnacion has the ability to hit some bombs this year. Based on physical tools I would have liked to hit him even higher in the order, but he appears to lack the mental toughness to perform consistently. So he finds himself sixth.

John Buck has a nice powerful swing. Nothing to justify hitting him higher than seventh, though, and he could easily be switched with Overbay and hit eighth. I wish we still had Barajas.

Overbay's real value comes from being a patient hitter who'll take his walks. In order for this to stay true he has to keep hitting in the lower third of the order. Down here pitchers will have no reason to attack the strike zone and risk running into the power that he's inconsistently teased us with over the years. I put him down to eighth with the hopes that he'll still be on base for the top of the order a few more times and maybe turn some of his walks into runs with some degree of consistency.

Alex Gonzalez – I wish that we could DH for the shortstop.

I left Jose Bautista out of my order because I have no faith in him. I think that he's very good at pinch hitting against lefties. So good, in fact, that he can start against them too. I'd probably slide him into the two hole and flip Hill down to fourth, Ruiz down to fifth, and sit Snider in those games at the start of the season.

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