New lineup thoughts for the new year
I've been thinking about the questions I recently asked in a different post - if the Cubs move DeRosa to RF, stick Fontenot at 2B, and rely on FukuReedome in center, what does the lineup look like next year?
Like always in these scenarios, I'll present you with two lineups - the one I would choose, and the one Lou will likely go with. Here's Lou's first:
LF Alfonso Soriano R
SS Ryan Theriot R
1B Derrek Lee R
3B Aramis Ramirez R
RF Mark DeRosa R
C Geovany Soto R
2B Mike Fontenot L
CF Fukudome-Johnson L/R
On paper, it's not the worst lineup in the world, although it's not as good as last year's team and it's no more balanced than last year's. Maybe Lou would trade Fontenot and Theriot in the lineup to better balance things out, maybe not.
If I were making the lineup, I'd be more inclined to go this route ...
SS Ryan Theriot - I wouldn't expect a .307 AVG out of him again, but in 1,264 career at bats he now has a batting average of .290 and an OBP of .362. If he can avoid getting caught stealing at such a horrible ratio, he's probably a good option to bat leadoff.
2B Mike Fontenot - In a different world, I'd put DeRosa in this spot because he really puts up ideal #2 hitter numbers, but then again I think Fontenot is capable of matching DeRo's offensive output next year anyway, and he's the ever-alusive lefty. He also is a career .290 hitter with an OBP of .369. He may be capable of stealing 10+ bases in a season and he should be good for 30-40 doubles and 10-15 homeruns ... assuming he's not a fluke.
3B Aramis Ramirez - He should've batted 3rd all of last year, too. Ramirez - who drew 24 more walks than he'd ever drawn before - hits the ball hard, he hits it often, he doesn't strike out a lot, and he's capable of having a good OBP. He's the best option on the entire team at this point.
LF Alfonso Soriano - They say he's not able to handle change, I say he'll just have to suck it up and live with it. Soriano might start the year in a slump, but he'll get comfortable eventually and if he can finish the year healthy, he's got the ability to hit 40+ homeruns as the team's cleanup hitter.
C Geovany Soto - I don't know what to expect from Geo next year, but as he will be 26 his numbers should be on the rise. If he can even only match last year's production, then he's probably a better choice to protect Soriano than Lee.
1B Derrek Lee - I'm not as down on Lee as some people became during the course of the past season, but I don't think he's got the stroke to bat third anymore. If he can even only come near last year's performance - 20 homers, a .291 AVG, a .361 OBP, an .821 OPS - then he'd fit in fine batting 6th.
RF Mark DeRosa - Actually this is the first time I'm torn. I'd almost rather insert Fukudome here if only to create the illusion of a more balanced lineup, but DeRosa is likely to put up a better offensive production than Kosuke, and even Reed Johnson.
CF Fuku-Johnson - Hey, you never know, Fukudome just might emerge as an offensive threat in 2009. If he does, then the Cubs have a solid-if-somewhat-problematic lineup next year. And even if he doesn't, they'll still probably be one of the 5 best in the league.
All things considered, on paper it's not a bad lineup. Everybody but Theriot is capable of hitting at least 12 homers, everybody but Fukudome is likely to bat .275 or better, and the 3-5 guys can hit the ball a ton, just like you want.
The issue here is the same one from last year - it's not a well-balanced lineup. It would be nice to have an offensively damaging left-handed batter in the cleanup spot, for example. But from Games 1 to 162, the Cubs could definitely find themselves playoff bound with this lineup. And once they get into the playoffs ... well, it's a crapshoot, right?
I guess my only problem with the team as it's built now is that it's just not better than last year's squad, and last year's Cubs didn't win. To me, the objective is to win the World Series ... if you fail, tinker a little, make some changes, you don't have to blow it all up!!! but I'd definitely like to have seen the Cubs do more than maintain the status quo.
Maybe they won't do that. Maybe they'll be fine with what they've got. It's a possibility, anyway.