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Lineup Order Still Doesn't Matter That Much, But...

With the Tampa Bay Rays exploring lineup options as they enter a pivotal stretch of games tonight against divisional rivals Boston and New York, and with several key players struggling, here's how I'd refine the team's batting order.

vs. RH
LF Crawford
RF Gross
3B Longoria
2B Zobrist
DH Aybar
1B Pena
C Zaun
SS Bartlett
CF Upton

vs. LH
LF Crawford
RF Kapler
3B Longoria
2B Zobrist
1B Aybar
SS Bartlett
DH Burrell
C Navarro
CF Upton

The biggest move here is to get Gabe of the Day much higher in the order. Gross hasn't hit for much power, but he sports a .370 OBP vs. righties, can handle the bat, and gives Crawford a little extra basestealing edge as a lefty hitter behind him. Meanwhile Kapler's hitting .306/.386/.594 vs. lefties, making him one of the team's most potent bats against that side.

Other moves: Aybar in for Burrell vs. righties. Aybar's shown he can hit from both sides, and needs to be playing every day, or close to it. He's the best bench bat in MLB, which is a waste. I nearly benched Burrell vs. lefties too, but Pena's been abysmal against that side, and this keeps everyone fresh but also involved. Not moving Bartlett up much higher than he is, since so much of his success is predicated on an unsustainable .384 BABIP. The catching situation assumes the Rays make a deal for Gregg Zaun. It's shocking to me that they haven't already with Matt Wieters taking over in Baltimore, and this is exactly the kind of low-hanging fruit that the Rays are so good at grabbing, even if Andy MacPhail is smart enough to know not to give Zaun away for free. Navarro stays in the lineup vs. lefties, on the strength of a .298 average, a .468 SLG, and as a way to keep the incumbent involed and hopefully hitting again in a lower-pressure role (same as Burrell).

Finally, Upton drops down to 9th while he works to shake out of his season-long slump. If/when he does recover, the Rays will still have the benefit of Upton and Crawford hitting back-to-back and driving opposing pitchers mad.

Comments

By: Dave Regan
On: 8/4/2009 9:08:00 AM
Personally I wouldn't drop Upton down that low. He's hitting .306 in his last eight games. Whether or not that means he's out of his slump remains to be seen, but I don't see how hitting ninth is going to help him be the hitter we know he can be.
 
By: Scott Pianowski
On: 8/4/2009 10:03:00 AM
Every time I re-rank outfielders for "rest of the season value" I get complaints that I have B.J. Upton too high. The thing is, for about six weeks there, he was playing so friggin' well, and it seems like he tries to steal whenever he gets on base.
 
By: Jonah Keri
On: 8/4/2009 4:30:00 PM
And a few hours after I posted this, Joe Maddon ignores BABIP and puts Bartlett in the leadoff spot. Upton 7th, Aybar starts for Burrell.

Could be OK re: Bartlett, as long as it's only against LH. Crawford has a problem with batting leadoff. Personally I'd like to see Maddon do what's best for the team and that's that. But if Crawford won't lead off, I'd have Kapler at the top vs. LH, Gross at the top vs. RH.

And Dave, they can always pull Upton higher once he settles in. Ultimately he can be a good middle of the order hitter too.
 

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