Editor's note: Each weekday starting Jan. 17, NESN.com Red Sox reporter Tony Lee will offer his take on 10 different potential lineups for the 2011 Red Sox. Check back every day to see a new offensive rundown and the pros, cons and likelihood of each.
On Tuesday, we explored one of many lineups that Red Sox manager Terry Francona can utilize when the opponent has a left-hander on the mound. Four positions — center field, right field, shortstop and catcher — have players which provide the skipper a good deal of flexibility in those scenarios.
We have analyzed the pros and cons of removing the center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, when a lefty is pitching. However, if Ellsbury is back to his usual self this year it will be tough to keep him out against southpaws too often. As it stands, he has better career numbers vs. left-handers than right-handers.
The other three flexible positions could each be swapped out on a more regular basis, perhaps on the same day. If so, here is one possible batting order against a lefty:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Cameron, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Jed Lowrie, SS
The top six in what figures to be the optimal lineup remains perfectly intact, and the bottom three have a chance to be pretty potent when put together. Consider that Cameron’s career OPS vs. lefties is .866, Varitek’s is .830 and Lowrie’s is .944, three pretty impressive numbers. J.D. Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Marco Scutaro would be available if a tough righty comes on later in the game, so that last third is incredibly flexible.
Cameron, Varitek and Lowrie could also be moved around a bit within that bottom third. Having someone like Lowrie hitting ninth would give Francona a very good hitter (against lefties) in front of the dangerous top of the order.
Provided everyone keeps roughly in line with their career splits and nobody is in a major slump, there may not be any negatives to this lineup. Certainly Ortiz’s production against lefties bears watching. It’s no mystery that he has struggled severely in such situations over the past few years.
Likelihood we will see this lineup in 2011
Much of this lineup’s probability has to do with the Lowrie-Scutaro situation. It’s not as if Scutaro should be sat against left-handers, it’s just that Lowrie is so much better against them that keeping him out of the lineup is difficult. But if Francona wants to have the versatile Lowrie in his pocket in the event he needs a pinch-hitter against a left-handed reliever or a defensive replacement at any infield position later on, he might just stick with Scutaro as the starter.
Keep an eye on the shortstop battle and expect to see this configuration from time to time if it ends up being a platoon.
Tuesday, Jan. 18: Marco Scutaro's ability to lead off will serve well for Red Sox against southpaws in 2011