Red Sox Opt For Offense in NL Park

With a right-handed pitcher on the mound for the second game of the Philadelphia Phillies-Boston Red Sox series, Terry Francona has decided to rearrange his lineup and get all his biggest bats into the game. That means he has to find two places on the field for Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz, neither of which is particularly fleet of foot, and although Gonzalez has a slick glove, it’s fair to question how he could handle the outfield. These questions will be answered today, as Francona has elected to put Gonzalez in right field to open up first for the statue that is David Ortiz.

Ortiz effectively replaces Mike Cameron in the lineup. Cameron has been a shell of his former self this year, posting a miniscule 25 wRC+, whereas Ortiz has been playing his best baseball in years, posting a 165 wRC+, a difference on the order of 90 runs over the course of a full season. The true talent difference probably isn’t quite that large, but throwing in the platoon advantage it’s not difficult to imagine an offensive gain of around half a run per game with this move.

This will be Gonzalez’s first game as a right fielder since he played eight innings there for the Rangers in 2005. The worst right fielders (think Adam Dunn and Brad Hawpe) tend to be around -30 runs over a full season, and I can’t imagine Gonzalez, very out of practice and lacking outfield range, would be much better. David Ortiz has been the butt of jokes as an American League representative at first base in All-Star Games at NL parks before, which should speak to how poor he is in the field. Think Prince Fielder, but without the practice of playing the position every day, and probably with less range. The defensive difference between Gonzalez and Cameron, two above-average defenders, as opposed to Ortiz and Gonzalez, likely two of the worst fielders in the game at their position, could approach something like 50 runs over the course of a whole season, or about a third of a run per game.

So although the difference in runs per game appears negligible, just looking at these dry statistics, I think Francona is making a great decision with this lineup. With John Lackey on the mound, the Red Sox may need to score more runs than usual regardless of the quality of their defense. Also, in one individual game, there’s a chance Gonzalez may only be forced into action at RF two or three times, and Ortiz may not even have to face any challenging plays at first. Regardless of what happens in the game, though, both the first baseman and right fielder will have to hit at least three times, and likely four or five.

The Red Sox have a flexible enough bench that they can easily go to a defensive replacement at any time in the game by inserting Cameron into right field and returning Gonzalez to first base. With the heavy-hitting run-scoring lineup on the field to begin the game, the Sox may be able to sprint out to an early lead and then revert to a defensive lineup in the later innings. Francona is employing a creative and potentially risky plan, but the flexibility of his lineup and talent of his hitters suggest that it is the right one.



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everdiso
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everdiso
5 years 2 days ago

what a well built team.

David
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David
5 years 2 days ago

For the league and park they play most of their games in it most certainly is

everdiso
Member
everdiso
5 years 2 days ago

$170m team desperately relying on a 35yr old DH’s surprising renaissance season doesn’t scream “well built”, IMO.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
5 years 2 days ago

So it’s the Red Sox’ fault that their DH has been one of the best hitters in baseball, as opposed to the crap that most teams stick into the DH spot?

I’d say that Carl Crawford’s (lack of) performance has been many times more surprising than Ortiz’ performance.

David
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David
5 years 2 days ago

If only they had other talented players like Ellsbury, Youkilis, Pedroia, AGon, and Crawford on their roster so they wouldn’t have to lean so heavily on Ortiz they could have the third best winning percentage in baseball… oh wait they do.

Antonio Bananas
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Antonio Bananas
5 years 2 days ago

Any team with a guy as awful as Lackey getting paid as much as Lackey and with key players as old as the BoSox have isn’t “well built”. When people are acting like them signing a 26 year old who has never realized his supposed potential and just had a decent peripheral outing (even though actual performance sucked) is proof of their smarts, it’s not a well built team.

The Red Sox benefit from having a ton of money and a core of good players in place. Any other team besides the Yanks, Sox, and Phillies make these kinds of mistakes and it’s selling/rebuilding time.

Bill
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Bill
5 years 2 days ago

everdiso is a jealous, troll Blue Jays fan. he constantly posts this type of shit about the Red Sox. Could it be because they are one of the two main reasons his team hasn’t sniffed the playoffs in nearly two decades?

This is not a “surprising renaissance” for Ortiz. His OPS was 899 last year. You’re a moron. Thank you, come again.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
5 years 2 days ago

well Bill, Ortiz’ 162 ops+ this year is most certainly a surprising renaissance, far better than the 137 and 101 he posted the last two years, and right back at his career years of 171/161/158 from 3-5 years ago.

As for “3rd best record in baseball”, David, it’s not usually a great idea to look at the standings at the end of a blazing hot streak. I think they’re down to 5th after tonight anyways. As for listing Ellsbury (career 98ops+) and Crawford (career 106ops+) as 2 of the best red sox…well, I think that says it all.

and no it’s not the Red Sox’ “fault” that Ortiz has been good, Yirmiyahu, it’s their fault that they need him to be this good to win. As for Crawford’s surprisingly poor performance, that’s been more than matched by Ellsbury’s surprisingly good performance.

Sultan of Schwinngg
Guest
Sultan of Schwinngg
5 years 1 day ago

well, Everdiso, less then 2 years ago, your ‘Joey Bats’ was one of the most worthless players in the game. Stop pretending you know who’s good or bad. You’re a fan, everything you claim is based on hindsight.

As far as Papi, I think this move was made simply because they had lost 5 of 6 while scoring 3 runs a game against less than spectacular pitching. They’re slumping and their manager wanted to ramp things up a bit, that’s all. Papi starting doesn’t mean the team was constructed poorly.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
5 years 2 days ago

FYI, Ortiz isn’t really replacing Mike Cameron. He’s replacing JD Drew.

Since Carl Crawford went on the DL, Francona has used a strict platoon in LF and RF. Reddick/Drew vs righties, and McDonald/Cameron vs lefties. As tonight’s opposing starter is a righty, it would’ve otherwise been a Drew start.

Boomer
Member
Boomer
5 years 2 days ago

“The true talent difference probably isn’t quite that large, but throwing in the platoon advantage it’s not difficult to imagine an offensive gain of around half a run per game with this move.”

Probably?

Jon
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Jon
5 years 2 days ago

why would you risk the guy you just signed for 8 years by putting him in a position he doesnt play

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
5 years 2 days ago

Is there a reason right field would be particularly dangerous? It’s not like he would be capable of running into a wall full-bore.

Seriously, if there’s an injury concern, it’s a Pedroia/Ellsbury collision, as both will be trying to make up for Gonzalez’s complete lack of range.

Lloyd Braun
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Lloyd Braun
5 years 2 days ago

It’s not like he’s so incompetent in RF that the second he gets out there he’s going to fall over and break his arm. The chances of him getting hurt in one game in RF vs one game at 1B are the same.

Dustin
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Dustin
5 years 2 days ago

I don’t believe he is more likely to get hurt than playing at 1st. At 1st you get balls flying off lefties bats and runners barreling at you while you try to catch a poor throw(ask Pujols). In the OF he won’t have either of these problems and I don’t see him laying out for balls or running into the wall. He is going to play it safe out there and hopefully not be too bad.

Dan
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Dan
5 years 1 day ago

There certainly was a chance of him hurting his throwing arm if he played a series of games in RF (increasing the likelihood of AG needing to throw out a runner at home), but that possibility is minimized by only playing one game there.

Any time you force a player into a position for which they have not developed consistent mechanics/strength, you run the risk of misuse/overuse injuries.

Neuter Your Dogma
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Neuter Your Dogma
5 years 2 days ago

Drag bunt to first! Drag bunt to first!

Larry
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Larry
5 years 2 days ago

I don’t get how John Lackey being on the mound makes it a sounder decision to opt for more offense at the expense of defense. He has obviously not performed well this season, but isn’t a run prevented the equivalent of a run scored in all cases? If the math turns out the you’re gaining more runs than you’re giving up, then fine, nobody would have a problem with the decision. But, unless Lackey’s batted ball profile data shows a huge proportion of balls hit to the left, I don’t see how Lackey’s presence specifically demands more offense than defense. I find it hard to believe that Ortiz and Gonzalez wouldn’t be forced into making plays against a lefty-heavy Phillies team. In fact, can’t it being argued that since he has sucked, it would be more prudent to field a better defense behind him?

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
5 years 2 days ago

Good point. In fact, considering that Lackey’s (ideally) is a control pitcher with unimpressive K rates, defense behind him should be even more important.

Drew L.
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Drew L.
5 years 2 days ago

I totally agree, and the argument ” there’s a chance Gonzalez may only be forced into action at RF two or three times, and Ortiz may not even have to face any challenging plays at first” seems pretty flawed to me for a few reasons. The first being that the Phillies are especially lefty heavy, the second, as Yirmiyahu states, is that Lackey hasn’t really been a strikeout pitcher lately, and the third is that it is just as likely they see the ball more often than in an average game.

It just seems a little ridiculous to me. Does anyone know how good Gonzalez’s arm is? I have no idea, but considering he is a first baseman I would assume not very good.

TK
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TK
5 years 2 days ago

I agree. This article should be on NotGraphs. You can’t just throw out a couple stats and then pull a conclusion from your gut and call in analysis.

Antonio Bananas
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Antonio Bananas
5 years 2 days ago

What happens more often in a game? A ball caught by a guy out of reach of most fielders that saves a run or a ball blasted? It’s not like their whole defense is being replaced.

I think it’d be interesting to do a small study, look at who they’re replacing and each sides +/- on offense and defense. If it saves/gains just .01 run, it’s worth it right?

Larry
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Larry
5 years 2 days ago

Most games don’t feature fielders that have any chance at being rated 30 runs below average, much less two. I do agree that more research could be done, but nonetheless the point stands that not enough evidence has been presented in the article to support the conclusion that this is a “great decision.”

YankeesJunkie
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YankeesJunkie
5 years 2 days ago

Thinking that Francona wants to try to get an offensive spark on the offensive side tonight side the Red Sox have been struggling to score runs. While Ortiz and Gonzalez are horrible at these positions as long as they can make the plays that are at them they should be fine. I am actually looking forward to this just because it is fun when players are out of position such Thames at 3B for the Yanks in 2009. However, the bigger problem for the Sox tonight is Lackey going to keep the Sox in the game against lefty Hamels.

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown
5 years 2 days ago

They will deploy the best possible tactic one can use against Hamels: have Worley pitch instead.

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown
5 years 2 days ago

(if only they could have used the same approach vs. Lee last night)

YankeesJunkie
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YankeesJunkie
5 years 2 days ago

Reply fail! Hamels starts tomorrow.

Kyle
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Kyle
5 years 2 days ago

Is Lackey going to keep them in the game tonight against Hamels, who starts tomorrow?

juan pierre's mustache
Guest
juan pierre's mustache
5 years 1 day ago

hes more likely to keep them in games from the dugout, so i’d say lackey’s contribution against hamels is likely to be above average for him

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown
5 years 2 days ago

The thing I really like about this move (as a Sox fan) is that it gives the team a trial run on a tactic they might have to employ in October (knock wood). If Gonzalez is completely lost out there, better we find out on a June roadtrip than when he gets put out there for the first time with the team down 0-2 in the World Series (knock wood).

I will now go conduct several voodoo rituals to undo all jinxes I may have just placed on the Sox.

hk
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hk
5 years 2 days ago

I’ll give you the trial run angle. However, (if I was a Sox fan) I would rather not see the team significantly weakened at 2 defensive positions in exchange for the hitting upgrade from Drew to Big Papi.

Jesse
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Jesse
5 years 2 days ago

too bad the Sox don’t have a young hitter sitting in the bench that has been killing the ball at both AAA and the time he has spend at MLB, when he;s not forced to sit on the bench and watch Darnell McDonald and Mike Cameron post their 200 wOba

Kyle
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Kyle
5 years 2 days ago

Reddick is in left tonight

dangnewt
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dangnewt
5 years 2 days ago

I’m with mcbrown on this – try it and see what happens. Ortiz doesn’t have much range and is out of practice but he used to be able to pick the ball pretty good. He is not Gonzales but he isn’t a joke either.

Gonzales has a better-than-average arm for an infielder and it is accurate. Any throws are going to be direct to the cutoff – no rainbows. He can’t be any worse than Johnny Damon on throws.

TK
Guest
TK
5 years 2 days ago

“He can’t be any worse than Johnny Damon on throws” is perhaps the most backhanded compliment ever delivered.

juan pierre's mustache
Guest
juan pierre's mustache
5 years 1 day ago

he can’t be any worse than juan pierre at baseball

Oliver
Guest
Oliver
5 years 2 days ago

I’m excited to see how this plays out, but with Lackey (a rightie) on the mound, the phillies will have 7 batters hitting from the left side of the plate. They could pull a lot of balls to 1st and RF, so I’m not sure how much of a good idea this will actually be. I’d have put Gonzales in LF, personally…

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
5 years 2 days ago

I really don’t know who to root for in these games. I hate both. I’m not one of those guys who roots for injuries. So iunno. I just hope they split the series I guess so no one gains too much.

Larry
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Larry
5 years 2 days ago

Just throwing out another question:
Why can’t Gonzalez play left field? Its not like Crawford is in the lineup.

Judy
Guest
Judy
5 years 1 day ago

He said he felt more comfortable playing right, because it’s the side of the field he’s used to playing.

Bill
Guest
Bill
5 years 2 days ago

“it’s not a well built team.

The Red Sox benefit from having a ton of money and a core of good players in place. ”

A core of good players in place. Hm. It’s almost as if that is the definition of a well-built team.

Here’s a hint: If the Red Sox were a 100m payroll team, they wouldn’t have signed John Lackey for 18 million a year. So the whole, “These contracts would submarine them if they weren’t so rich!” thing is a false paradigm.

There’s a reason why the other GMs in baseball voted Theo the best in the business. And guess what, they all work with less money than him, so they understand better than you what those limitations means.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
5 years 2 days ago

Any team can build a good core, most just can’t afford to keep them. If they didn’t have as much money as they do, they wouldn’t be able to keep their core.

How good would the Marlins be if their owner let enough money into the team?

RC
Guest
RC
5 years 1 day ago

How good would the Marlins be if they didn’t draft in the top 10 so many years?

Tick
Guest
Tick
5 years 2 days ago

A team building their roster to maximize their success in 9 interleague games as opposed to the other 153 other games doesn’t scream “well built”.

Jon
Guest
Jon
5 years 2 days ago

thank god big papi was in there to go 0-4

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
5 years 2 days ago

and Lackey actually pitched well. Baseball is funny huh.

Judy
Guest
Judy
5 years 1 day ago

Even funnier, he drove in their only run.

Bill
Guest
Bill
5 years 1 day ago

“well Bill, Ortiz’ 162 ops+ this year is most certainly a surprising renaissance, far better than the 137 and 101 he posted the last two years, and right back at his career years of 171/161/158 from 3-5 years ago.

As for “3rd best record in baseball”, David, it’s not usually a great idea to look at the standings at the end of a blazing hot streak. ”

Man, you know you’re dumb when you contradict yourself in consecutive paragraphs. Ortiz, after an incredible first half, is clearly going to finish at the same pace (because this is convenient for your argument). It’s silly, however, to look at the Red Sox record after a hot streak.

Now, back in reality land: Ortiz will probably finish somewhere in the low 150s, which is fantastic, but not nearly the leap forward from 2010 that 2010 was from 2009. 2009 was the resurgence.

As far as the Red Sox, they’re on a 93-95 win pace. If you don’t think they’ll reach that, I’ll gladly give you my email address so we can place a wager on it. I know I won’t have to, though.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
5 years 1 day ago

Ortiz’ resurgence has been a surprise to everyone, including yourself, and everyone is willing to accept that other than you. If we had asked anyone before the season if they thought the Red Sox would be so desperate to get Ortiz into the lineup in June that they’d be sticking Gonzo in RF, they would have laughed.

I’m not 100% sure why you’re trying to deny it, but I could hazard a guess.

Bill
Guest
Bill
5 years 1 day ago

*2010 was the resurgence

Bill
Guest
Bill
5 years 1 day ago

Remember after the first month of the season when everdiso was doing a victory dance over the Red Sox slow start? It’s dumb to judge a team after a hot streak, but I guess it’s okay to do so after an even smaller sample skid.

Oh, and he also tried to make it sound like the hype about them in the off-season was totally misappropriated. I believe he mocked the “assumption” that their injured players would come blazing back (Pedroia and Ellsbury on pace for their highest WAR ever, Youkilis having another terrific season).

Stop pretending that you’re intelligent and participating in objective discussion, just be a homer troll and embrace it.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
5 years 1 day ago

remember before the season when you and everyone else was claiming that this was the best Red Sox team ever, that they were a near perfect team that would easily run away with the league?

remember when I was the lone voice in the wilderness pointing out that they had just as many holes and question marks as the other top teams?

I do.

Bill
Guest
Bill
5 years 1 day ago

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/?comments_popup=46878

“But I guess it’s more the general sentiment that all of Youk, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Gonzalez, Drew would ALL come back right away at a good level that bugged me the most. Those are all major injuries and in some cases major downgrades in performance that for any other team wouldn’t have been considered automatic bounceback scenarios..”

Oh and my favorite:

“3) 1B Gonzalez – coming off of shoulder surgery – question mark”

Sultan of Schwinngg
Guest
Sultan of Schwinngg
5 years 1 day ago

Entertaining but by not quite enough. Find his comments about Bautista needing to be dumped, pronto! during the 2009 season.

TIA

everdiso
Member
everdiso
5 years 1 day ago

no need to make things up. I was pimping Joey long before it was fashionable.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
5 years 1 day ago

Thank you for bringing up the best pre-season post about the Red Sox on this site.

the ONLY pre-season post about the red sox that pointed out that they had as many question marks as the other top teams did, and this preseason hype of them being an unstoppable juggernaut cruising to 100+ wins was obviously silly.

and why would you quote the one question mark that actually has been answered well for the Red Sox (Gonzo), and not quote the rest of the question marks which have not been answered well? why wouldn’t you quote all the question marks around Youk, Pedroia, Crawford, Scutaro, Lackey, Matsuzaka, Papelbon, Jenks, Wheeler? What’s wrong, you don’t find those question marks funny anymore? you sure thought they were funny a couple of months ago.

A “question mark” doesn’t mean that a player is guaranteed to be bad, it means that he is not a lock to be good.

As this season has clearly shown, the Red Sox are indeed full of question marks, just like I said before the season – and just like you tried to mockingly dismiss.

It’s funny that you would try to keep on with the same arguments now, after this season so far has proven that post right in spades.

But again – thank you for re-posting the most accurate post about the Red Sox during this preseason of mega-hype that you’ll find anywhere.

SiddFinch
Guest
SiddFinch
5 years 1 day ago

“as opposed to Ortiz and Gonzalez, likely two of the worst fielders in the game at their position”

I hope you’re not insinuating that Gonzalez is one of the worst fielding first baseman in the league? Because that would be preposterous.

You must mean worst-fielding as a Right Fielder…

Bill
Guest
Bill
5 years 1 day ago

1. That wasn’t during the preseason.

2.”why wouldn’t you quote all the question marks around Youk, Pedroia, Crawford, Scutaro, Lackey, Matsuzaka, Papelbon, Jenks, Wheeler? What’s wrong, you don’t find those question marks funny anymore? you sure thought they were funny a couple of months ago.”

Youk, Pedroia and Papelbon are having tremendous seasons. Pedroia is having a fucking career year you moron. As far as their 4th and 5th starters and middle relievers, yes, the Red Sox had questions mark there, unlike every other team in baseball I’m sure.

Bill
Guest
Bill
5 years 1 day ago

“an unstoppable juggernaut cruising to 100+ wins was obviously silly.”

Holy straw man, Batman.

This is what people said: “The Red Sox are loaded, they are probably the best team in baseball on paper and a World Series favorite.”

When that went through your ears and was translated by your insecure, jealous Blue Jays fan mind, what it turned into was “They’ll cruise to 100 wins.” Fact is the Red Sox, so far, by most objective measures, have been the best or second best team in baseball. So the hype was right.

I will give you credit though, you doubted their abilities to go 162-0 and you stuck to your guns. Bravo.

pft
Guest
pft
5 years 1 day ago

I am a Red Sox fan but even I can not help but notice that any article about the Red Sox supports anything they do.

This was a dumb move given the risk of injury is higher for players playing out of position. Putting the season at risk for a neglibile advantage for 1 game (given Papi had been 0-12) was dumb. Even if they got away with it it was still dumb.

As for using the tactic in the World Series, maybe it makes sense, if they get there. I remember the Rangers tried it by putting Vlad in RF last year. What a disaster it was defensively. You can not estimate how bad A-Gon might be in RF since he has played only 1 game in his life there, but he is by far the slowest man on the Red Sox, so it would not be good.

As it turns out only 1 FB hit A-Gons way, it went for a triple, and what was supposed to be a high scoring affair turned out to be a 2-1 loss, and Papi continued his hitless streak going 0-4 (now 0-16 in his last 16 AB)

BTW, Cameron has been horrible defensively this year in RF. JD and Reddick would be better options defensively than Cameron. Not that it matters now with Cameron being DFA.

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