May 6, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon (4) is congratulated by center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) as Gordon scores in the first inning of the game against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Revisiting the Lineup - Still Out of Order?

It’s been a while since I first tackled the topic of how I would set the lineup (based on some preseason projections) for the Royals. After hearing the local media go on and on with antiquated theories on who should bat cleanup (an all or nothing Steve Balboni type, perhaps?), who should lead off, and so on and so on…not to mention news that Ned Yost is considering a shakeup in the order, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this topic.

Needless to say…something’s gotta give. This team has shown very little power and continually seems to either squeak by or come up just short. Lately the trend is to squander a good outing by one of the starting pitchers. I think we can all agree that James Shields should have better than a 2-2 record.

If you go back and look at my last dissection of the batting order, you’ll see I used some of the more modern (nerdy? No, I don’t live in my mom’s basement) ways of thinking when stacking the guys up from 1 through 9. I did a simple breakdown at the time, just looking at building one “master” lineup…but the way these guys are hitting – it might be time to consider not only a shuffle in the order, but some platoons. Once again, I’ll lean on ideas borrowed from The BookAnd away we go…

I still believe your best hitters should be in the 1, 2, 4, and 5 positions. With the thought that your leadoff guy should have the highest possible OBP, and the way these guys are hitting…I think our new leadoff guy should be Lorenzo Cain. I’m not making this move lightly, as I’ve been a proponent of Gordon as the leadoff guy…but Gordon is flashing some power and Cain is getting on base more often. I’d stick Gordon in the next spot, though…not moving him too far from that top spot in the lineup.

Moose is heating up…is he ready to bat third? Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

With the top two spots settled, I think our cleanup guy is obviously Billy Butler. After getting off to a pretty slow start, Butler now leads the team in OBP and is third, behind Cain and Gordon, in OPS (these numbers do NOT reflect Wednesday’s game, by the way). But he’s coming on strong.

Our third hitter is a bit tougher to peg. We’ve got Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer as the next best hitters in this lineup. Chris Getz and Jeff Francoeur, to the surprise of absolutely no one, bring up the rear and are the most likely candidates to at least be platooned, if not completely replaced, at some point.

The fourth best OPS belongs to Escobar, then we have Perez, and Hosmer. Moose is currently last on the list…but after another pretty impressive game Wednesday night, I think it’s a matter of time before he leapfrogs his way into the mix.

I may be crazy – but combining the way he’s been hitting of late with what is expected of him, I’d put Moose in that third spot versus RHP. Then I think you have to go with (after Butler at cleanup), Perez and Hosmer at 5 and 6. What about Escobar? If he’s not going to hit second anymore, I just can’t see him anywhere from 3 through 6, so we’ll put him at 7. After that, we go with Dyson rather than Frenchy (versus RHP) and then some kind of platoon with Getz and Johnson.

So the lineup versus RHP goes like this:

Lorenzo Cain RF

Alex Gordon LF

Mike Moustakas 3B

Billy Butler DH

Sal Perez C

Eric Hosmer 1B

Alcides Escobar SS

Jarrod Dyson CF

Chris Getz/Elliot Johnson 2B

When I switch it up and fill out the lineup card against southpaws…I think we have to make a few changes. First of all – for the time being, I’m not sure you play Moose versus lefties. And if you do, I don’t think you can bat him third. I’d also go with Frenchy over Dyson in this lineup, and give Elliot Johnson the definite nod at second base, with Tejada getting some time when Moose does play.

With that being said…I think our lineup versus LHP shakes out like this:

Lorenzo Cain CF

Alex Gordon LF

Sal Perez C

Billy Butler DH

Miguel Tejada/Mike Moustakas 3B

Eric Hosmer 1B

Alcides Escobar SS

Jeff Francoeur RF

Elliot Johnson/Miguel Tejada 2B

It’s not a radical shakeup by any means, but it is different – both from my initial idea weeks ago and from what we’ve seen on a daily basis courtesy of Yost. It puts our hitters in (arguably) the right spots, while giving the team a legitimate power threat in that cleanup spot. Cain hasn’t flashed a lot of home run power just yet (I do think it will come) and would be allowed to get on base for Gordon, who was slugging at a .484 clip before hitting another homer Wednesday. Those first two spots are now filled by all-around batters who can work the count, drive the ball, run a bit (Cain can run a LOT), and have a knack for coming up with big hits.

Escobar batting lower in the order gives some protection to Hosmer, who would be batting just ahead of him. Hosmer has a good OBP at .343, but has yet to hit for any power. He won’t generally kill a rally though, and if he can get on base Escobar has a decent shot of following with a hit of his own. Another benefit to moving Escobar down – he’s grounding into a lot of double plays this season, leading the team with 7 so far. Would you rather have him killing a rally with Dyson or Frenchy on deck, or with Butler (or, according to what I’ve sketched out – Moose or Perez) waiting to bat?

When all is said and done, this team still won’t succeed by slugging a combined .390, but a slight shuffle might give them a better chance at scraping together 5 runs instead of 3. Then we just have to hope a couple of these guys start hitting the long ball.

What do you think? Am I nuts? How would you stack the order?

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Tags: Alex Gordon Kansas City Royals Lorenzo Cain

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