I’m not all that interested in threads on fan sites that debate starting lineups, because there’s only one lineup card and that’s the one Mike Scioscia fills out.
But with plenty of question marks hovering over the Angels’ roster, I began to muse about what a 2009 everyday lineup might look like, and came up with this:
- Chone Figgins 3B
- Howie Kendrick 2B
- Kendry Morales 1B
- Vlad Guerrero RF
- Torii Hunter CF
- Juan Rivera LF
- Brandon Wood SS
- Mike Napoli C
- Gary Matthews Jr. DH
… (with the outfielders rotating through the DH slot.)
My thinking behind Morales at #3 and Wood at #7 was that I wanted to protect these two young hitters from seeing too many breaking balls. With Guerrero behind him, pitchers are more likely to throw Kendry fastballs. And although Napoli should probably be higher in the order, the same theory would apply for Wood.
If every batter reached his potential, this lineup might be okay. Of course, “if” is true of pretty much every player in the major leagues. With the departure of Mark Teixeira, the Angels will rely on the young talent to fulfill its potential.
Some fans scream about acquiring a “big bat” but if you look at #3 – #8 in that lineup, each one of them is capable of at least 20 homers in a full season. That’s 120 homers right there. Would you rather have your homers concentrated in one or two batters, or spread them throughout the lineup? The latter seems more sensible, as the former increases the risk that you’re depending on one or two guys to generate your offense. If the “big bat” gets hurt — or leaves via free agency — you wind up with a gaping hole in your lineup.
That was pretty much the style of the 2002 world championship team. Troy Glaus hit 30 homers, Garret Anderson 29, Tim Salmon 22, and Brad Fullmer 19. The Angels hit only 152 homers that year; in fact, their opponents hit more, with 169.
Personally, I’m more worried about filling the vacant fifth starting pitcher position. Hoping that a starter emerges from Nick Adenhart, Shane Loux, Anthony Ortega or Dustin Moseley is just whistling through the graveyard. Adenhart will be a major league starter one day, but he still has to show the confidence to pitch effectively in Triple-A, much less the big leagues.
Now that closer Brian Fuentes is in the fold, here’s an idea to toy with — move Scot Shields into the starting rotation.
Sure, Scotty’s durability is a major asset in the bullpen, but during his minor league career he was mostly a starter and in his early major league career he had a few spot starts.
Move Shields into the rotation, and the bullpen has Fuentes and Darren Oliver as lefties, Justin Speier, Jose Arrendondo, and Kevin Jepsen from the right. Speier had an off-year in 2008, but if he fixes his mechanical problems then Shields’ move to the rotation would be much easier to absorb.
I think the Angels will do another transaction before Opening Day, whether it’s signing another free agent or working a trade. Some fans continue to dream of Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez for the Angels’ entire farm system. Padres management said no way, but now that the owners have reached an agreement in principle to sell the team to Orange County resident Jeff Moorad, maybe they’ll be more flexible.
If I were San Diego, that deal would require Adenhart, Morales, and pretty much all the other top talent in the Angels system. They’d certainly ask for Wood and/or Erick Aybar, along with Jordan Walden and heaven knows who else.
And then we’re back to the all-eggs-in-one-basket problem. It would sure be a nice lineup on paper. But the game isn’t played on paper.