A Deep Red Sox Lineup is Farrell’s Biggest Weapon

Red Sox lineup

As Boston pounded Philadelphia on Opening Day, churning out eight runs on nine hits, baseball fans were reminded how, despite incessant worries of porous pitching and overcrowded outfields, the Red Sox have a stacked lineup this year that will be extremely difficult to navigate.

Red Sox LineupThree of the first four hitters, namely Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez, combined for seven hits, five home runs and eight RBI, largely off Cole Hamels, one of the premier starting pitchers in baseball. Such a profound offensive barrage sent shock waves reverberating through the American League.

Meanwhile, David Ortiz, playing first base in a National League park, and newcomer Pablo Sandoval, making his Red Sox debut, went hitless and registered six strikeouts between them. The fact that the Sox hammered the Phillies despite two key guys struggling shows just how deep the Boston lineup is, and how frightening it will become when all of the aforementioned hitters, plus Mike Napoli, find their groove.

The hypothetical top six of Betts, Pedroia, Ortiz, Ramirez, Sandoval and Napoli is quite possibly the most fearsome in all of baseball. It forces a pitcher to deal with a wide array of threats, from the speed and dynamism of Mookie to the switch-hitting and raw power of Pablo; from the patience and hunger of Pedroia to the experience and production of Ortiz. Even Hamels, an elite ace, struggled out of the gate on Opening Day, when faced with the prospect of running Boston’s offensive gauntlet, causing many people to sit up and take notice.

This year, the Red Sox’ lineup will wear down a lot of pitchers and, judging by the early results, collect a lot of big hits. Following a dismal 2014 season, during which Boston lurked near the bottom of every offensive category, it will be a welcome relief for fans to finally have hitters to believe in and rely upon.

It must also be a pleasant change for manager John Farrell, who now has the luxurious ability to mix and match his lineup. For instance, if Ortiz struggles to hit for average, Ramirez could easily move up in the order, just as Pedroia could move down to be replaced in the two hole by Shane Victorino or Xander Bogaerts, further lengthening Boston’s attack.

Certainly, the Red Sox stand out as an offensive force in the American League East, and, if healthy and consistent, the string of prolific hitters atop their lineup could negate the lack of pitching depth to make Boston a serious contender, especially playing their home games at hitter-friendly Fenway.

Regardless of how the season ends, be it with celebrations or commiserations, Sox fans can rest assured that the start was explosive, exciting and entertaining. For the first time in a long while, Boston was back in the baseball spotlight, garnering positive attention for an offensive onslaught rather than negative criticism for hitting profligacy.

Quite frankly, Ben Cherington couldn’t have dreamed it up better.

Going Strong, Though Middle of Red Sox Lineup Needs Help

red sox lineup

Sometimes I feel like it is hard to find things to complain about regarding our team this season. Then I look at the Red Sox lineup. I can find a few things, three in fact: the five, six, and seven spots. These slots in the lineup are a revolving door. John Farrell tries each game to get the right combination, but it is a struggle that sometimes pays off and other times, does not.

The right mix seems evasive. It can cause close games, or even worse, cost us the game. You put Mike Napoli in and he swings wildly at pitches he should not. He wants to muscle his way through plate appearances. Napoli has made progress over the course of the last few games. Stephen Drew has improved, too. He is still best placed after a batter, or batters, that can get on base. Thus, having him hit eighth in the lineup like he did in Sunday’s game against Chicago is optimal. Only trouble with it was that he got stranded on base 5 times according to the statistics. Not necessarily his fault. Two outs may have been made earlier leaving Drew on base.

Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Daniel Nava run hot and cold at bat. Putting these players back-to-back has not proved effective. Where are you going to put them, though? Some of the trouble is not the construction of the lineup, but the performance of the player. Performance is the big, unpredictable variable. One quick fix for some players, specifically Napoli, is to draw more walks and stop the super hero act.

The middle of the lineup is constantly changing. John Farrell works on it, game in and game out. There is no question that the center of our lineup is a liability. The first four hitters need to develop the rhythm and momentum, setting the pace for these middle men.

What do you think the magic combination is in the center of the lineup?