Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Red Sox Lineup Needs Fixing

For decades, the Red Sox have been a team built around offense.  Playing in tiny Fenway Park, they have traditionally been a team that scores a ton of runs and, when they have the pitching to match the offense, they've been in contention to compete for the World Series.

This year it looks like they have the pitching.  Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Drew Pomeranz provide manager John Farrell with as good as a rotation as there is in baseball and while the bullpen could use some reinforcements, Craig Kimbrel gives them a championship caliber closer.

The issue has been the offense.  The Red Sox were expected to struggle a little at the plate after the retirement of David Ortiz but overall this is a lineup that has not performed up to expectations.

Overall, they've been a front running offense.  In their 52 wins, the Red Sox have batted .308, posted an on-base percentage of .38 3 and slugging percentage of .490, and have scored 348 runs.  In their 42 losses those triple slash numbers drop to .205/.273/.304 with only 95 runs scored.

Lately, the offense has struggled mightily.  Over their last ten games - in which they've gone 3-7 while giving the Rays and Yankees hope in the A.L. East - they've batted .195 with a .275 on-base percentage and a .283 slugging percentage while scoring just 26 runs.

The solutions to the problem need to come from within while Dave Dombrowski evaluates the trade market.  There is simply too much talent for the offense to be stuck in neutral.

A shakeup to the lineup needs to be Farrell's first move.

I would move rookie Andrew Benintendi into the lead-off spot.  He has a .357 on-base percentage and has excellent speed.  On the days that he sits when facing a tough left-handed starter, Chris Young (.326 on-base percentage) would also hit lead-off so that the rest of the lineup would maintain their normal roles.

Dustin Pedroia, having another solid season to add to his Hall of Fame resume, would stay in the second spot and Xander Bogaerts would continue to hit third.  Mookie Betts would then drop from the lead-off spot into hitting cleanup.

In the fifth spot, Jackie Bradley Jr. would move up and ten be followed by Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland.  Rookie Sam Travis can also be used more to spell Moreland at first base and Young can get additional at bats as the designated hitter if Ramirez does not start producing more at the plate.

The last two spots are to be split by catchers Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez as well as third baseman Brock Holt and Devin Marrero.  Both Holt and Marrero can also spell Pedroia at second base to keep him fresh for September and October.

Other than reinforcing the bullpen, Dombrowski should be looking at adding more offensive production at third base.  Holt is a solid role player but he's coming off of a bout with vertigo, has played only nine games, and has a history of wearing down when he's over used.  Marrero - along with the recently demoted Tzu-Wei Lin - stabilized third base defensively following the total failure that was Pablo Sandoval but neither is suited at this point of their careers for an every day role and are better served as utility players.

The most obvious target at third base is Todd Frazier of the White Sox.  Frazier, a free agent at the end of the season, is not having his best season (.207/.328/.432) but his power numbers (16 home runs, 44 RBI, 15 doubles) would be a major upgrade over what Farrell currently has at his disposal and would, on paper, upgrade the bottom of the lineup.

With the White Sox in sell mode, Dombrowski could also look to add Chicago's closer David Robertson in a deal to serve as Kimbrel's primary set-up man who can also close games.  Adding an arm like Robertson would allow Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Robbie Ross, Fernando Abad, and Brandon Workman to work in less stressful situations in games.

The Red Sox lineup, if they added Frazier, could look something like this:

1. Andrew Benintendi, LF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
4. Mookie Betts, RF
5. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
6. Hanley Ramirez, DH
7. Mitch Moreland, 1B
8. Todd Frazier, 3B
9. Sandy Leon/Christian Vazquez, C

The bench would be Chris Young (OF), Brock Holt (IF/OF), Sam Travis (1B/DH), Devin Marrero (IF).

Adding a relief pitcher - if it's not Robertson, his White Sox teammates Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak as well as Philadephia's Pat Neshak and Detroit's Justin Wilson - would help as well.

Projecting Boston as a playoff team, Farrell would be able to utilize a starting rotation of Sale, Price, Porcello, and Rodriguez with Pomeranz going to the bullpen to join Kimbrel, Kelly, Barnes, Ross, Abad or Hembree, and whoever Dombrowski is able to trade for in the next couple of weeks.

That should be enough to beat out the Yankees and Rays for the A.L. East and it could be enough to top the Astros and Indians for the A.L. Pennant and the Dodgers for the World Series.

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