If you can hit, you’ll be in the lineup. Simple, right?
Not exactly. Many Major League Baseball teams go to great lengths to tailor their lineups based on the opponent’s starting pitcher: If a right-hander is throwing, you’ll probably see more left-handed batters and vice versa. The prevailing wisdom also suggests a lineup that alternates between right-handed and left-handed hitters is most effective.
Alex Cora doesn’t necessarily subscribe to those theories, though.
“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter,” the new Boston Red Sox manager said Thursday morning in Fort Myers, Fla., before the team’s spring training opener, via WEEI.com. “You put the best lineup out there. I hate to bring up last year because I want to turn the page, but you saw what happened at the end. We had five righties and it didn’t matter. If you can hit, you can hit.”
Cora, of course, is referring to the Houston Astros. As Houston’s bench coach, Cora saw firsthand last season a lineup in the playoffs that often featured five consecutive righties atop the batting order — George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis — on the way to winning the World Series.
The young manager appears willing to adopt that similar approach in Boston. Cora referred to increasingly popular advanced analytics as “NASA numbers” and relayed an anecdote downplaying the importance of statistics like head-to-head batting averages.
“It doesn’t have to be about history,” Cora said. “Tito (Former Red Sox manager Terry Francona) used to play me against Padilla — you remember Vicente Padilla? — he would play me, and I was never comfortable in the batter’s box. I thought he was an awful at-bat. But because I was 5-for-7 (against Padilla), he’d play me. But it was a bleeder here, a bleeder there, but that doesn’t mean it was a productive advantage for the hitter. So, there’s more to lineup configuration.”
Cora’s philosophy appears to mark a change from his predecessor, John Farrell, who often played the matchups while making lineup decisions. Farrell’s Red Sox club scored the most runs in baseball in 2016 and finished 10th in 2017, so there certainly is merit to that approach.
But if Cora’s comments are any indication, Boston’s lineups might be constructed a bit differently in 2018.