Although there are some questions left in the final 25 man roster for next year, it behoves Pinella to set his lineup properly to make best use of the talent that's available.
All of us cringe when we remember the obscene Cub lineups trotted out by Baker. However, in 2003 Baker did have it set up pretty well. I tend to believe that the proven leadoff man, Lofton helped as well as having Grud. already in place as the two hitter, prevented Baker from cocking it all up.
Those two positions, leadoff and two hitter, paved the way for the Cubs to get the most from Alou and Sosa, plus the added punch afforded by Ramirez's addition.
When Uncle Lou finally sets his lineup for the 2007 Cubs, we can only hope he understands the effectiveness of such a lineup.
The importance of placing speed and OBP at the top of the order is critical in maximizing the run production from the boppers in the lineup.
It's just a simple of matter of numbers. When your big sticks come to the plate, you want men on base. The more that happens, the more runs you score, period.
There are two most likely scenarios of the starting eight position players, so I'll discuss each one's best configuration to maximize this scenario. I also will consider J. Jones as the starting center fielder as the trading of him is certainly in question.
The first scenario, has Murton, Jones and Soriano in the outfield, with A-Ram, Izturis, DeRosa and Lee in the infield and Barrett behind the dish. With this team, Soriano is the only real speed threat. Still I think it's a mistake to use him as a leadoff man. I've posted other articles on my reasoning for this, so I won't go into them here other than to say that his chances of being pitched around with first base open in an RBI situation are exacerbated with him in the leadoff role, ie; the eight hitter gets on base, pitcher bunts him to second, Soriano gets intentionally walked to face the two hitter. All of you can see what a waste of Soriano's production it is in these critical situations, therefore I propose a lineup that would negate this and still keep the Cubs only real speed near the top of the order.
With the leading OBP player Murton as the leadoff man, you create the most desirable effect of a leadoff man, getting on base. In the two hole plug in Soriano. Murton would even get better pitches to hit with Soriano's thunder behind him and Soriano would benefit the same way by having Lee and A-Ram hitting behind him. With Lee immediately behind Soriano in the order it could also quite possibly help cut down on Soriano's strikeout total. As far as Murton in the leadoff role remember this, he only ranked behind Pierre last year in going first to third and has above average speed.
Batting Soriano in the two hole instead of leadoff, doesn't cut down on the number of his plate appearances or take away from his value to steal bases, but does protect him from being pitched around.
The problem with this lineup is the all glove, not hit Izturis. If Jones is traded and Pie is called up, you'd have the inexperienced bat of Pie, and the Punch and Judy bat of Izturis, both at the bottom of the order. This clearly weakens the lineup unless Pie really performs well at the plate.
So let's look at the other potentially viable lineup. For this scenario to work, The Riot has to win the 2B job outright. This would give Pinella the option to plug DeRosa in at SS. As I made the case for DeRosa being a suitable replacement for Izturis in my last article, I won't go into that detail here.
With The Riot in the lineup, you not only eliminate the weak bat of Izturis, but also inject more speed into the lineup. This would allow Soriano to slide down another spot in the lineup, and provide another high OBP hitter to be placed in front of the one of the best 3-4-5 hitters in the game.
The Riot has the speed to be a quality base stealing threat, and you'd enhance Murton's natural stroke to the opposite field hitting in the two hole as well. This also decreases the likelihood of platooning Murton on any regular basis. If Jones is traded, you also don't have the problem of Pie and Izturis both at the bottom of the order.
We can only hope Pinella realizes the value of OBP, and after his press conference where he stated he wouldn't mind eight midgets in the lineup, I think we can all have some faith that the days of playing the manager's pet are over and the best interests of the team will be the norm.