Wednesday, May 27, 2009

May I Change My Order?

Terry Francona finally listened to the rantings of Red Sox Nation. (I hate it when he does that). He moved David Ortiz out of the #3 spot, and batted him sixth for the first time in years. Red Sox fans were overjoyed. It was about time. Frankly, I don’t get all the fuss.

There was the impression out there that Ortiz was killing the Sox by staying in the 3-hole. Even if we ignore the fact that the Sox are in first place, I don’t see it. Ortiz wasn’t hitting. I’ll give you that. His batting average was hovering around .200. He was replaced in last night’s line-up by JD Drew (keeping the lefty-righty thing going). Was that a big improvement? Batting .200 means that Ortiz was getting 2 hits every ten at-bats, or so. If a player bats 4 times a game, Ortiz would get a hit every two and a half games, or so. If Drew hits at a .300 clip, he’d get three his every ten at-bats. So, over the course of 2.5 games, Drew would be expected to get one more hit than Ortiz would. In a 6 game week, Ortiz would expect to get 5 hits. In 6 games, Drew would expect to get 7. So, Ortiz would get, about, two fewer hits per week than Drew. This was killing the Sox? I doubt it. Moving Ortiz from third to sixth wouldn’t seem to be needed to help the offense.

Other people pointed to the mental pressure that Ortiz was putting on himself by batting in the 3-hole. Moving him down in the order would take that pressure off. That’s crazy. Ortiz isn’t putting pressure on himself to be a great #3 hitter. He’s putting pressure on himself to be David Ortiz. Do we really think that he looked at his name in the six-slot and thought, “Phew! I don’t need to hit as many home runs from this slot. The pressure’s off boys.” Doesn’t he still know that he’s struggling, compared to Ortiz of old? Wouldn’t moving Ortiz be even worse? Now, not only is he questioning himself, but he knows Francona’s questioning him too. Now there’s even more pressure to prove to everyone he can hit well enough to move back up. And, when exactly can you move him back up? If he hits 7 home runs in his next six games, does he move to number three? Would that put the pressure back on him, and cripple him again? If he goes 0 for 10, does he move down more?

Moving him around isn’t the answer. What’s my suggestion? Same as always. Bunting. He’s got to start dropping bunts down that third base line. I’ve always said he should do it every time he’s leading off an inning. He should just get on base for everyone behind him. Eventually, they’ll stop shifting him in those cases, and he can go back to hitting. But, in this slump, he needs the bunts to get some hits. Get that average up to the point where it doesn’t start with a 1. Not only is it a mental helper looking out at the scoreboard, but also pesky reporters could call off the dogs a bit. He may still not have the power numbers, but they can stop asking everyone about his lack of hitting. And, maybe teams will lay off the shift a bit, allowing him to get some real hits again. It’s the real solution. Bunting needs to become a real weapon for Ortiz, now and in the future. There are other bats in the line-up. Just getting on base helps.

It’s the best way for the Sox to stay in first place.

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