Olney's opinion: Hit Ellsbury ninth

January, 24, 2011
In today’s blog entry (Insider), ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney offered his two cents on how he’d construct the Red Sox lineup and why. Here it is:

There is no definitive word on how the Red Sox are going to structure what should be a very deep lineup, but generally, a lot of the speculation has had Jacoby Ellsbury hitting leadoff, followed by Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez. Given that Crawford has never liked leading off and would prefer to hit No. 2 or No. 3 -- as he did with the Rays -- it's a natural thought to place Ellsbury in the leadoff spot.

But here's the thing: by hitting Ellsbury in the leadoff spot -- a year after Ellsbury played in just 18 games because of injury, hitting .192 -- it decreases the likelihood that Gonzalez or Youkilis gets a fifth plate appearance in a game. If I'm sitting in Terry Francona's shoes (and I'm not, decidedly), I'd want the four best hitters in the lineup -- Pedroia, Youkilis, Gonzalez and Crawford -- with the best chance to get a fifth plate appearance late in games.

That would mean a lineup that looks like this:

1. Pedroia
2. Crawford
3. Youkilis
4. Gonzalez
5. David Ortiz

Nos. 6 thru 8 could be some combination of J.D. Drew, Mike Cameron, the catcher du jour, and the shortstop. Then at No. 9., Ellsbury. By hitting Ellsbury ninth, the Red Sox would essentially have a second lead-off hitter book-ending the other half of their lineup, hitting ahead of Pedroia as the lineup turns over.

What do you think Francona’s lineup card should look like? Share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog entry.



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