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.
The lefty-righty matchups will dominate the Red Sox daily plans this year, and we have explored several possibilities in our prior lineup configurations over the past week or so. One that has yet to be explored is if Terry Francona wants to sit both Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew against a left-hander.
The depth and quality of the team’s outfield is one of its strengths, and that will come into play on days such as this. Both Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald are easy names to write down once or twice a week when someone needs a breather or has a tough matchup.
Using those two guys, this is one lineup possibility without Ellsbury and Drew:
Cameron and McDonald both hit significantly better against lefties last year. Drew did not and Ellsbury wasn’t around to give much of a sample. In that regard, production could actually go up with the two replacements. Gonzalez, Youkilis and Ortiz slide into more customary roles. The left-handed bats are spread out nicely, with Varitek offering a switch-hitting option at the bottom of the lineup.
There is temptation is to bat Pedroia first, but he has never enjoyed that role, aside from a brief run of success batting leadoff in 2007. Since then, Pedroia is a .215 (38-for-177) hitter in 42 games as the No. 1 hitter. While Crawford doesn’t necessarily enjoy batting leadoff either, he at least has had some success there (.288 hitter in 367 career games) and provides the speed to replace Ellsbury. Crawford getting on base ahead of Pedroia could really open up Francona’s playbook.
Additionally, Ellsbury and Drew give the skipper some great options off the bench against a right-hander, and/or for defensive purposes.
Crawford has actually struggled against lefties from time to time, whereas Ellsbury has not, so having him at the top of the lineup could hurt. But Crawford is an everyday guy who has managed to avoid injury for the bulk of his career. After 2010, the same cannot be said for Ellsbury, and Drew has yet to play in more than 140 games in a Red Sox uniform. Of the three left-handed outfielders upon which we can rely for 150-plus games, Crawford is the one. In the interest of keeping Crawford in a lineup without Ellsbury, he must remain at the top spot.
There would be a defensive dip in right field, particularly at Fenway Park, where Drew has mastered his surroundings.
Likelihood we will see this lineup in 2011
If either Drew or Ellsbury goes on the shelf, this could be a common look if and when the other one has a tough matchup or needs a day off.
Tuesday, Jan. 25: Red Sox have lineup flexibility if David Ortiz continues to struggle against lefties.