With the Indians struggling to score runs as of late, some tinkering of the everyday lineup could be in order. The Indians could use a jump start and sometimes it takes nothing more than a well executed adjustment to the batting order to get the job done. With that thought in mind, I decided to ask the staff here at Wahoo’s on First for their opinions on the matter. I expected some well thought out answers, but nowhere near the length and depth with which they responded. Apparently, the question struck a bit of a nerve.
Geordy Boveroux: The best possible lineup with the way the roster is currently constructed is:
1. Bourn CF
2. Swisher 1B
3. Kipnis 2B
4. Santana DH
5. Brantley LF
6. Raburn RF
7. Cabrera SS
8. Chisenhall 3B
9. Gomes C
I don’t believe that both Raburn and Gomes should be everyday players from this point forth. A large part of their success has been from Terry Francona putting them in position to succeed. They have each earned extra playing time, but I like how Francona has rotated personnel into and out of the lineup on a daily basis. I do however believe that this lineup is the best one Cleveland has to offer.
Bourn is your prototypical leadoff man, despite his lack of attempts at swiping bags this year. Swisher has played his best ball in the two hole, and is a strong fit there with his quality eye. Kipnis has been the best offensive option all year, making him your usual fit in the three hole. Santana gets cleanup based on his plus power and his ability to get on-base will pair well with Brantley’s ability to hit with people on base.
Raburn and Stubbs in right is a toss up, but as my colleague Steve Kinsella has pointed out to me before, having Stubbs available as a defensive replacement and/or pinch runner late in games gives Francona great flexibility in tight match ups, and Raburn’s hot bat beats out Stubbs’s offensive contributions this year.
Cabrera isn’t hitting, so why should he continue to get at-bats? Chisenhall needs to start more over Aviles as his lack of consistency is derived from his lack of consistent playing time. Gomes catches mostly for the defensive upgrade over Santana, who has been arguably the worst defensive catcher in baseball this year.
Evan Vogel: I don’t think the Indians are utilizing the skills of the players in their lineup. If I had my way, this is what I would do:
1. Michael Bourn, CF: Prototypical leadoff hitter with blazing speed. While he hasn’t been as productive as he has been in the past, especially on the base paths, he is still quite valuable here.
2. Michael Brantley, LF: You need your No.2 hitter to make contact. That is Brantley’s game. He has just 31 strikeouts this season and continues to make solid contact in nearly every at-bat.
3. Carlos Santana, C/DH: I understand his inability to make consistent contact and his occasional moments of being too patient, but he can be an excellent hitter if he had more consistent at-bats with men on base. He is an elite offensive player at his position and the Indians need to put him in a spot that he can be the most productive.
4. Nick Swisher, 1B: Switch-hitter in the middle of the order with power and productive, “professional” at-bats, whatever that means…Swisher was signed to be the producer in this lineup and this is where he belongs.
5. Jason Kipnis, 2B: The club can use Kipnis in the middle of the order still with solid on-base guys ahead of him. While he could, potentially, not receive as many at-bats here, His production could take a step forward hitting behind Swisher and Santana.
6. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS: He isn’t hitting for power like he was in 2011 and he isn’t getting on base the way that he did last season. He needs to move down the order. He is still a solid hitting middle infielder, but he isn’t as valuable as any of the players hitting in front of him here.
7. Jason Giambi or Yan Gomes DH/C: Production at the bottom of the order, especially if Gomes keeps hitting, which is needed as the lineup transitions from the middle back to the top.
8. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B: Still a work in progress, Chisenhall should maintain a spot at the bottom of the order until his approach is more sound and he is able to show consistency.
9. Drew Stubbs, RF: Stubbs at the bottom of the order is useful as the lineup resets. Having both Stubbs and Bourn on the bases at the same time could really hurt the mindset of the opposing pitchers. His speed and power combo, and inability to make consistent contact, will be valuable and won’t hurt the team here.
A few differences from the norm here that could really help the already solid offense.
Jeff Mount: I think the lineup is what it is, a bunch of guys who would hit sixth or seventh if they played for Detroit. I would consider Brantley in the two hole. He makes contact and can occasionally work a walk, which would give us a chance to play some small ball with Bourn in the early innings and give Kipnis and Swisher more RBI chances. I know small ball is not fashionable but neither is getting shut out.
Michael Chaney: I really like Geordy’s lineup, and I agree with pretty much everything he said. With that said, here’s how my lineup would look:
1. Bourn CF
2. Swisher 1B
3. Kipnis 2B
4. Brantley LF
5. Santana DH
6. Cabrera SS
7. Raburn RF
8. Chisenhall 3B
9. Gomes C
I also agree that Gomes should not be starting every day (for now), and that starting Stubbs in right field could be the better option than Raburn. I like Raburn more as a bench player anyway, because (as George mentioned) he’s been put in a position to succeed, and over a full season, his numbers won’t look as good as they do now. Because of that, I don’t think Terry Francona should roll out this lineup 162 games a year, but if the Indians end up in the Wild Card play-in game, this is the lineup I’d like to see.
For now, Raburn gets the edge in right field. I thought I’d go with whichever has better platoon splits, but they both hit lefties a lot better than righties. The difference is that Raburn still posts respectable numbers against righties as well (.252/.344/.530), while Stubbs, uh, doesn’t do as well (.211/.255/.338). I never really thought a lot about the late-inning defensive or baserunning help Stubbs could provide, but maybe that would be the best use of his skills, while also giving him a few starts here and there.
Santana really shouldn’t be catching anymore. We all know what Yanny Baseball (or Yan With the Wind, whatever floats your boat) provides behind the plate, and there are worse options than putting him in the lineup more often.
I really like Brantley in the cleanup spot. It’s not a sexy move because he won’t hit a lot of home runs, but let me explain. Brantley has appeared at all nine spots in the lineup at least once this year, and has hit .283/.320/.304, which is reasonably close to his season lines. Besides, I love going against the tide, and I hate the common belief that a cleanup hitter has to hit with power. Brantley puts the ball in play a lot, which creates more opportunites to drive in runs than a power hitter who relies too much on a home run. Dr. Smooth’s approach remains the same no matter where he hits, and that’s fine with me. I could live with Santana hitting fourth (and he’s done fairly well there), but giving him a little less pressure could be beneficial.
The “less pressure” thing hopefully works for Cabrera too. With Raburn, Chisenhall, and Gomes following him, I think that seems like a pretty good lineup. But Terry Francona is the manager, and not me, so it will be interesting to see what he’ll do with the lineup the rest of the season.
Steve Kinsella: Sometimes a struggling hitter is moved from one position to another and suddenly his bat gets hot and people correlate the move in the batting order to the turnaround. More than likely the hitter was just due for some positive regression that just so happened to coincide with a switch in batting order position. Chances are the player was mired in a real bad slump over an extended period of time and it was only a matter of time until the numbers evened up the other way.
It’s similar to when a team fires a manager. To go to that extreme the team usually is playing so poorly that fans say…”it can’t get any worse.’ This statement is usually true and I’d guess that teams that change managers usually see an uptick in performance. Usually not because of the switch but just the natural swing in momentum. At some point the gods of baseball have to take their collective foot off the teams neck.
So, would I make any changes to the Indians lineup? Do I try to elevate guys to capitalize on the “hot streak”. Do I categorize a player as a clutch hitter and move him higher up in the order? I would probably make a few subtle changes based on platoon splits and the days opposing pitcher. I may move a guy who is struggling into the leadoff spot to give him a different view. Changing the lineup is usually just a bunch of noise and a belief that a manager can change a teams fortunes if he’d just shake things up.
Brian Heise: My biggest issue with the Indians lineup right now has to be the continued use of Asdrubal Cabrera in the cleanup spot. It makes no sense to me and I think it’s hurting this team more than it’s going to help over the long haul. I also think Yan Gomes should be used on a more regualr basis even if more playing time could expose his flaws. Lastly, Ryan Raburn has earned the everyday job in right field, at least for this season. He’s been that much better than Drew Stubbs, not that Stubbs has been bad. So with those thoughts in mind, my lineup would shake out as follows:
1. Bourn, CF
2. Santana, DH/1B
3. Kipnis, 2B
4. Brantley, LF
5. Swisher, 1B/DH
6. Raburn, RF
7. Cabrera, SS
8. Gomes, C
9. Chisenhall, 3B