05 April 2011
I heard an interesting theory by Mike Felger in 98.5 The Sports Hub yesterday:
Was it a mistake to start the season with Carl Crawford in the 3-hole?
With new pieces like Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez coming to the Sox, fans were piecing together potential lineups all winter. Carwford's speed made him a candidate for leadoff man, but he opted out of that job in Tampa Bay and since he offers more pop than Jacoby Ellsbury, that was never really an option. C.C. hit second for an entire season in 2009 and logged 400+ ABs in the2-hole last season, but Dustin Pedroia is a better fit, so that didn't work either.
Hitting 3rd seemed like the obvious choice. Carl is a lefty, so it helped break up the lineup. He's a career .293 hitter. He's got speed. And he's always hit at the top of the lineup.
Oh... and we're paying him $20 million bucks per season.
But is the 3-hole really the right place for Carwford? After "pressing" through the first two games of the season, Terry Francona dropped him to 7th and Crawford went 2 for 4 on the day. It would appear that the switch helped Carl relax and and results were positive... but what happens tonight in Cleveland? Tito has opened a can of worms here and fans are wondering (after just 3 games) if Carwford can handle the pressure that comes with his new contract and his new fanbase.
Felger's suggestion was that the Sox never should have put Carwford in the 3-hole. Instead, he seems like a better fit in the 5th spot... and I agree. Here's why:
1. Adrian Gonzalez is our best hitter. He has 40 HR power and knows how to spray the ball to all fields. The rule of thumb is to use your best pure hitter at No. 3... and that's A-Gon.
2. That means the lineup becomes Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez and Youkilis... with a lefty of your choice to follow. If you buy into the theory of "splitting the lineup" then you'll like the idea of "setting the table" again with Crawford in the 5th spot, followed by David Ortiz, Drew/Cameron and rest. This enables the Red Sox to stack the lineup with lefties when facing right-handed pitching and keeps the lefty-righty rotation against southpaws.
It also keeps Crawford in the upper half of the lineup and reduces the likelyhood of fans screaming about a $20M player hitting 7th.
Bottom Line: Crawford will likely be back in the 3-hole tonight against the Indians and RHP Josh Tomlin, but if he struggles though this series, what will Tito do in the Home Opener against the Yankees? Dropping Crawford down in that series will probably turn up the pressure cooker, rather than help C.C. relax. But if he struggles against the Yankees too, Tito will have no choice but to mix things up.
I think the Sox should make the switch now. They won't use the same lineup all year, but hitting A-Gon 3rd and Carwford 5th is the best "base lineup" in my mind, and the quicker they mak the switch, the easier it will be on the Red Sox... and Carwford.
What do you guys think?
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