It seems as though the consternation over Cito's batting orders began pretty much before the ink was dry on his opening day lineup card. Obviously, it's easy for us to sit back and pick it apart from our vantage point because we don't have to look any of those dudes in the eye after we drop them from their spot in the order.
We also take the point that Jeff Blair has made in several venues about replacing Vernon Wells in the cleanup spot. Blair has noted that even if Wells seems ill-suited to the fourth spot in the order, there isn't an obvious candidate to take over for him in that spot. (Which would bring us back to some vintage "there's no big scary bat in this lineup" discussions, which we've had pretty much every year since Carlos Delgado left.)
Still, staring out at the scoreboard this weekend and looking at the OBP and SLG numbers for the players who were in the lineup, it seems as though there might be some reasonable adjustments to be made. Especially when you see Lyle Overbay hitting way down the lineup, and behind Kevin Millar on Saturday in spite of his vastly superior results thus far (especially against righties).
So imagine if you will that the Jays' brain trust totally lost its mind and handed us the lineup card for a day. (Hey, they let Ernie Whitt fill it out, so it's not the craziest thing ever!) Here's what we'd pencil in with a right-handed starter:
1) Scutaro, SS - Though he's slid back to reality a bit in recent weeks, he's still drawing walks and getting on base at a .399 clip.
2) Rios, RF - The sour taste may linger from Alex's awful five strikeout game last week. But consider: Rios has more walks (17 to 14) and just six more strikeouts (45 to 39) than the current number two hitter. And not to go all Joe Morgan on you, but we still like the idea of having speed at the top of the lineup.
3) Hill, 2B - Hill is slugging .494 and leads the team in RsBI. Giving him more opportunities to drive in runs would seem to make sense at this point.
4) Lind, LF/DH - Lind leads the team with 30 extra base hits, and is slugging .525 for the season. He strikes out a lot, but when he gets hot, he can produce.
5) Wells, CF - Don't get us wrong on Wells. It's not as though we think he should be at the bottom of the order, and we still figure him to end the year in the neighbourhood of 25 homers/90 RsBI. But a modest drop in the lineup might allow him to get more opportunities with runners at second or third, or with runs already driven in ahead of him.
6) Overbay, 1B - We're a loathe to have two left-handed hitters back-to-back in the order (especially two who have their issues against quality LOOGYs), otherwise we would have put Overbay in the five-slot. As it is, Lyle is slugging .583 and is third on the team in RsBI, in spite of sitting against virtually every left-handed starter.
7) Rolen, 3B - The Greatest Blue Jay of All Time still has some double power (16, tied with Overbay for third on the team), although his home run stroke now sits somewhere in the rubble of Veterans Stadium.
8) Barajas, C - When it comes to paunchy, slow catchers, Rod the Bod God can run from first to home with the best of them. Stunningly enough, Barajas still has more runs driven in (29) than Wells (28) and Rios (27). And it's June, which is not all that early in the season.
9) Millar/Bautista DH/LF - We don't mean to dump on Millar or JoBau, but it's weird how both of them have been getting dropped into higher spots in the batting order while not really delivering (.709 OPS for Millar, .768 for Bautista).
As for how we'd line it up against lefties, we'd tweak it a little bit:
1) Scutaro ss
2) Rios rf
3) Hill 2b
4) Lind dh/lf
5) Wells cf
6) Rolen 3b
7) Barajas c
8) Millar/Overbay 1b
9) Bautista lf/dh
Barajas and Rolen have raked against lefties this year, while Wells traditionally kills lefties (.509 SLG and .883 OPS over his career) in spite of his dismal performance against them this year (.571 OPS).
Things that make you go "Wha???"
Vernon Wells is slugging .286 against lefties this year, and we're nearly a third of the way through the season. In 2005, he slugged .673 against lefties for the season. Seriously, isn't this a tip-off that there's something physically wrong with him?
We can't take another sub-par season from him at the plate and in the field where afterwards, he comes out and tells us that he was hurt all year and that he's going to get in shape really good for next year, with the plyometrics and the macrobiotics and all that jazz.
If VW is hurt, then he should sack up and sit down until he's right enough to play.