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If It Ain’t Broke…

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

This quote is most likely in line with Red Sox Nation’s thoughts on the Red Sox offense this year.  Heading into Thursday Night’s game against the Orioles, the Red Sox have been far and away the best offense in Major League Baseball.  The Red Sox have scored 317 runs in their first 53 games which is an average of 5.98 runs per game.  As a team, they have a .296 batting average, a .360 on base percentage, and an .856 OPS.  Those numbers also lead MLB.  Wow!  Want more?  How about three of the top four leaders in batting in the American League in Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and David Ortiz.  All is good with the Red Sox offense as they have carried the Red Sox to the best record in the American League.

It’s not easy to make improvements with a lineup that is this good.  Having said that, the Red Sox may not be getting the most production they possibly can get with this current lineup.  This is the Red Sox current standard lineup.  Granted, there are some changes on a nightly basis, but this is the most consistent lineup.

  1. Mookie Betts RF
  2. Dustin Pedroia 2B
  3. Xander Bogaerts SS
  4. David Ortiz DH
  5. Hanley Ramirez 1B
  6. Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
  7. Travis Shaw 3B
  8. Blake Swihart LF
  9. Christian Vazquez C

Again, it’s a very good lineup.  The top seven is outstanding.  There’s seven straight hitters batting over .285.  The question here is are they maximizing their production?

Consider this:  Mookie Betts has 14 home runs and 42 RBI hitting leadoff.  He is 4th in MLB in RBI and is on pace to hit over 40 home runs.  Granted, Mookie has great speed and can steal a base, but is he best fit as a leadoff hitter?  Dustin Pedroia has a .375 OBP.  Mookie Betts has a .335 OBP.  Would it make sense to flip flop Betts and Pedroia to maximize Betts production and power?  Given that Swihart and Vazquez are hitting in front of him, chances are that he’s not going to have as many chances to drive in runs hitting leadoff.  A big reason why he drove in runs earlier in the year was because Bradley was hitting 9th.  Putting Pedroia at leadoff puts a player who gets on base more than Betts at the top of the order and gives Betts more opportunity to drive in runs with his power.

Here’s another point.  For all of the positives about Hanley Ramirez transitioning to first base, the reality is that he isn’t putting up power numbers good enough to be the #5 hitter in this offense.  Dating back to May 1, 2015, Ramirez has just 13 home runs in 134 games.  He has just four homers this year.  His OPS is .752 which isn’t awful, but it ranks 7th amongst hitters in this lineup.  Jackie Bradley has a 1.010 OPS and Travis Shaw’s is .869.  The argument against this would be that if the Red Sox moved Bradley and Shaw up, they would then have three left-handed hitters in a row.  However, the reality is that Hanley Ramirez is not putting up the power numbers that he was brought in to put up.  In fact, he has fallen well short of that.

Let’s take a look at this proposed lineup.

  1. Dustin Pedroia 2B
  2. Mookie Betts RF
  3. David Ortiz DH
  4. Xander Bogaerts SS
  5. Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
  6. Travis Shaw 3B
  7. Hanley Ramirez 1B
  8. Blake Swihart LF
  9. Christian Vazquez C

Switching Ortiz and Bogaerts addresses having three consecutive lefties in a row.  Do you know what else it does?  It provides needed protection for Ortiz.  Teams are already beginning to pitch around Ortiz with Hanley not being a major threat hitting behind him.  If the player with the most hits in the AL is hitting behind Ortiz, teams are going to have to pitch to him and it makes the Red Sox offense that much better.  The top six would be a pitcher’s nightmare.  The bottom of the order would still be very strong.

The Red Sox lineup is putting up record numbers.  Teams are going to work to figure out where the holes are.  The Red Sox have a big opportunity to maximize their production here.

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