We’re one game into the season, a game in which Boston was victorious, so I’m not about to go on a tirade about Red Sox manager John Farrell. At least, not yet.
He’s bound to do a flurry of things that will inevitably piss me off this season, so I’m sure there will be plenty of time for that. And I hate to nitpick, especially after a win, but this is something that really bugged me about yesterday’s game. Why the hell was Xander Bogaerts batting sixth? I know this was something that had been discussed leading up to Opening Day, so it wasn’t a total shocker when his name actually appeared on the lineup card in that slot, but I just don’t understand it.
The thing about baseball is that it has virtually been the same game for over a hundred years, but the philosophies on how we analyze it as fans, and the philosophies that teams adopt in an attempt to maximize their win total are constantly changing. Before, your best hitter would bat cleanup, and then we were told that the best hitter bats third, and now teams are actually toying with the idea of batting their best hitter second. There’s really no right or wrong answer, I guess. It’s what you believe. But I think we can all agree that you want your best hitters getting the most at-bats during a game as they possibly can, right?
Okay, so based on that logic, why the fuck was Mitch Moreland batting ahead of Bogaerts yesterday? I know what Farrell’s explanation is, and I’m sure there will be some fans who actually agree with him — Moreland’s a lefty, Bogaerts is a righty, and it provides balance in the lineup with Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez hitting right-handed back-to-back in the middle of the order. I get it. But you’re talking about a player who had 196 hits in 2015, and 192 hits last year. And they’re batting him SIXTH. Here was Farrell’s actual explanation:
“That’s more product of the depth of the group that we have,” Farrell said. “We’ve got probably four or five guys that are capable of hitting in the two- or three-hole in this team but to keep some balance, some left-right balance throughout and potentially not allow some obvious matchups from opposing bullpens, Bogy going to the six-hole is the choice made. I’m sure we’re going to have many different looks throughout the course of the year in the lineup, but this is where we start.”
If the Red Sox are so adamant about having lineup balance, you can still have lineup balance without dropping Bogaerts down that far in the order. Here’s how — Pedroia 4, Bogaerts 6, Benintendi 7, Betts 9, Ramirez DH, Bradley 8, Sandoval 5, Moreland 3, Leon 2. Right, right, left, right, right, left, switch, left, switch. Perfect balance.
Since they’re obviously set on batting Benintendi that high in the order to start his rookie season (which I agree with), then you can still get him to the plate in the first inning guaranteed, still have Mookie bat in a spot where he can drive in runs, and also have Bogaerts in the top half of the order in a table-setting spot, all while getting to keep your precious little lineup balance.
Not that I think they’re going to re-sign Bogaerts anyway once he becomes a free agent in 2020, but the last thing you want to do with a Scott Boras client is piss them off and make them feel like they’d be better off playing in another organization. In just a few years, the Red Sox have killed this kid’s confidence by signing Stephen Drew to take over at shortstop, which moved Bogaerts over to third base in 2014, and now they’re moving him down to the sixth spot in the batting order after he was an All Star for the first time last year, and won his second consecutive Silver Slugger award at the age of 23. Wake the fuck up, Red Sox.