Saturday, April 23, 2011
The sinister lineup
This is a follow-up piece on my Matt LaPorta piece over at the Hardball Times.
A reader made an interesting comment that I want to explore. He/she suggested that LaPorta's significance to Cleveland comes not in being a player at a position with little system depth, but rather in being a right-handed bat in a predominately left-handed lineup.
There is no denying that Cleveland is a predominately left-handed lineup. Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner, Michael Brantley, and Jack Hannahan all bear the mark of Cain. Moreover, this imbalance is likely to increase with our two top prospects Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall batting from the sinister side. (Chisenhall would replace fellow lefty Hannahan, but Kipnis would replace righty OCab.)
I discussed the issue of our left-handed lineups in both the Baltimore and KC series reviews. The predominately left-handed lineup tempts Manny Acta to play several right-handed bench players against left-handed opposing starters. However, our lineup is not very good with several bench players in it.
So, is the commenter correct that LaPorta's significance comes in being a right-handed bat?
I don't think so. Critical mass has been achieved. We have four productive left-handed hitters in Sizemore, Choo, Hafner, and Brantley. If the lefties struggle against lefties, the lineup will struggle. Regardless of how our right-handed hitters perform, opposing managers are going to juggle their rotations to maximize left-handed starts.
We can't change who we are. Cleveland is going to be a predominately left-handed lineup. It is the left-handed hitters that must produce against left-handed pitching. With their personnel, they can no more field a balanced lineup than Steve Buscemi can play bubbly characters.
LaPorta's development or demise determines the productivity Cleveland will get at first base. It does not determine the balance of the lineup.
Update: Over at Cleveland Indians Chatter, you can find another discussion of our left leaning lineup.