|Photo from the Blue Jays' official Twitter account, @BlueJays|
It seems funny to look back now and find that our big complaint with John Gibbons was how erratic he was with his lineups. It seemed like every day featured a new concoction in the order, and while such a thing sounds fun in retrospect, this was something that drove us crazy at the time. On May 17, 2007, we actually wrote the following sentence:
"It's this sort of willy-nilly jerking around with the lineup that makes us wish that someone would bring back Cito."
Oh my. How foolish were we? You know what they say about being careful what you wish for. By the time that The Manager returned to assume his responsibilities anew, we were stunned at the manner in which Gaston seemed to chisel his lineups into granite and steadfastly hold to them, no matter what the outcome.
And as a quick aside: We still believe that lineups matter. We realize that we probably spend entirely too much time worrying about them, but the notion floated by some that you could pick names out of a hat and that it would mean little in terms of a team's offensive outcome is overly simplistic as well. (Also, we suspect that in those studies, the statistical models that were created to prove this were tailored to reach a specific conclusion.) Ultimately, we think that there is value in hitter sequencing, which is why this sort of thing still gets our goat.
In many ways, we should be thankful that John Farrell splits the difference between the two approaches, adapting to the pitcher and his own personnel without making radical changes each day. We don't even mind Farrell's penchant for being somewhat strict about maintaining a righty-lefty balance. And we would be happy for such a set of circumstances were it not for that one glaring weakness that gives us a daily dose of misery: Adam Lind, batting fourth.
We probably should stop harping on this, because at a certain point, it starts to feel as though we're piling on. But Lind is a lefty who cannot hit lefties, managing three singles and a walk in 22 plate appearances so far this year, and posting a .604 OPS (.263 OBP/.341 SLG) over his career against southpaws. By keeping him smack in the middle of the order, the Jays continue to leave themselves vulnerable to teams with a half-good left-handed relievers. It would be somewhat akin to having John McDonald (career OPS: .605) come in and hit for your cleanup hitter late in close games.
This isn't to say that we think the Jays should send Lind packing, which is a conclusion to which we know many will jump without delay. But let's not go to that extreme quite yet. We think that Lind can be a halfway decent contributor - and far less of a pariah - in a lineup in which he slides further down. The Blue Jays might think that he still has a 30-homer bat, but we'd prefer if they let him hit those dingers out of the sixth or seventh spot in the order.