A lot has been talked about the Brewers lineup so far into this young season, and with good reason.
There just isn’t a lot to be impressed with in the first 17 games. As a team, the Milwaukee Brewers lineup is hitting .224, which mean that unless the Crew is facing the Mariners, the Reds, the Padres, the A’s, or the Pirates for the next 145 games the team has its back to the wall offensively. This obviously has a big effect on the rest of the game. Excuse me for dumbing it down, but facts or facts: we can have the best rotation and bullpen in the Majors but if we can’t score runs it’s just a matter of when a pitcher is going to break down. There’s a reason they’re called insurance runs – right now it would appear that the deductible is a little too high.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was asked by the press today about changing the line up, and he answered in this bewildering string of words, which I’ll let you decipher:
"You put so much time into why [a lineup] should work, that to change it is saying that all of the stuff you thought made sense doesn’t make sense anymore…That’s kind of crazy…Sometimes you [change the lineup] just to do it, because you do something crazy. But it’s set the way it should be set. – Ron Roenicke"
Yeah…about that. I can accept the fact that Ron Roenicke probably knows a little bit more about managing a baseball team than I do, so I believe that he believes this lineup is going to work.
I just don’t care, is all. There are scores of Brewers fans everywhere who can see this lineup is not working well the way it’s put together, and a change should be made. That’s where I come in.
Now, I’m not an expert in lead-off hitters, but I know that Rickie Weeks ain’t one of them. Am I insane, or did Ron Roenicke remove him from the lead-off spot last year to increase productivity from the top of the order? I don’t think you need to have a Major League pedigree to see that someone who is striking out over 30% of the time this season – and over 25% of his at-bats for his career – should not be beginning the game. I think Rickie is a good ballplayer, but a power hitter in a slow start is not the ideal lead-off man.
That, of course, begs the question: who is a lead-off hitter on this year’s Brewers team? Call me crazy, but right now it looks like Mat Gamel. Think about it – he’s hitting .281 right now and has recorded a hit in all but three of his last 10 games. He’s drawing more walks of late and though he has power, he shows good restraint and patience at the plate, though there are admittedly still concerns there. He also moves really well around the bases. These are all things that you want – nay, need – from a lead-off hitter. To me, he’s the perfect choice, where Rickie would probably serve far better in the third or fifth position in the order.
Meat of the Order
Again, some of you may not like this, but I’ve just about had it with the “Protecting Braun in the lineup” argument. Ryan Braun is a bona fide power hitter. He’s the guy who is going to drive in runs, go big fly, and scare the crap out of pitchers now. He doesn’t need to be thrown at because another big bat is coming up – he is our big bat. But if you really need someone to ‘protect’ Braun, Hart is a good choice this year as he is pounding the ball like the Corey Hart of old.
Aramis Ramirez is a power hitter (or was at one time) as well but I think the clean-up spot is putting a lot of
pressure on an aging hitter who feels compelled to perform. Switch him and Braun in the lineup, or move Ramirez down to the fifth spot. If our lead-off man can get on base and the platoon at the second spot can advance him, then whether or not Ramy gets put out in the three hole makes no difference because Braun will still be up with at least one man on. There is concern about his proficiency in grounding into double plays – but that’s kind of another story.
Fitting in Lucroy
Jonathan Lucroy is kind of the anomaly in this line up. Part of me would like to see him move further up the order, if only to give his abilities a little bit more effectiveness. He’s not exactly a power hitter, but he has proven an ability to hit well and with consistency, and move runners over. It’s just a shame that someone hitting near .300 only has five runs scored all year. He does a great job protecting the bottom of the order, but I think the majority of his talent is wasted in that role when there are people who could fill that part better.
Putting it Together
So I guess it’s time to show you an actual lineup, or what passes for one around here:
Aoki(preferred)/Gomez/Morgan (CF Platoon)
Is it perfect? Of course not. I do think it seems balanced and far more effective than the set-up we have right now. Don’t get me wrong – I trust Roenicke implicitly. I just think that staying the course in the face of all evidence is, to borrow his phrasing, crazy. If a line-up change doesn’t work it doesn’t work. But the only thing worse than continuing to lose is to not try to change the course of the season – even if it is early. There’s quite literally nothing more to lose in this situation.