Lineup strategies in baseball are intriguing because many teams take entirely different approaches. Some managers prefer to construct batting orders having players with the best OPB at the top, while others like to build their lineups to combat an opposing pitcher’s handedness, even if most of the hitters have decent splits.
Obviously, the most well-constructed batting orders can’t put runners on base and drive them home, but an optimal lineup can definitely help move runners along sometimes when it’s working right.
Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts is often criticized for the way he puts together his daily batting orders, especially when the club is struggling offensively. Despite having one of the best winning percentages in MLB history, Roberts is seemingly very stubborn with his batting orders, specifically for rotating left-handed and right-handed bats as much as possible. This tactic is often used more to combat pitching strategies against him rather than maximize the offense of his club.
Friday’s opener against the Guardians was a great example of one of those lineups that backfired. Mookie Betts was a late scratch, which made things a bit challenging, but some of the choices appeared poor, especially since neither of your three, four or five-hole hitters had season averages above .240.
One of the biggest examples of Roberts’ stubbornness was visible last year after the club acquired Trea Turner. Roberts insisted on hitting Turner leadoff and playing around with Betts in the two and three holes. Technically, this shouldn’t affect the way a team performs, but it does play a part in a player’s comfort level.
When Roberts finally moved Betts back to leadoff and the team began performing well, Roberts admitted that comfort plays a factor for some of his players. However, that didn’t stop him from moving Freddie Freeman to the two-spot this year, a hole where he hasn’t really spent much time. Over the course of his 13-year MLB career, the lefty-hitting Freeman hit 182 games in the 2-spot, a whopping 1070 games batting third and 143 games hitting cleanup.
The same can probably be said for Trea Turner, who has led off in 453 games, hit second in 160 games and batted third in just 91 contests.
Nevertheless, those switches and discomforts aren’t the biggest of the Dodgers’ problems. Since his return, Max Muncy continues to hit in the heart of the Los Angeles lineup with an average below .160. He’s typically followed by Justin Turner, who’s having one of the worst offensive years of his career.
It’s definitely too early to make any significant personnel changes, but it couldn’t hurt to move a player that’s hitting .153 a few spots down in the lineup, giving someone else who’s producing better the chance to drive some runners home.
Let’s see how a lineup would work with Freeman hitting behind Trea Turner for a change, along with Muncy in the eight-spot.
And how about some looks for someone like Jake Lamb, who’s hitting .292/.400/.522 with 11 doubles and 12 homers over his first 200 AB at triple-A Oklahoma City this season?
There will be streaks with ebbs and tides with the offense, but sometimes it just needs a little boost to push it in the right direction.