MLB Hall of Famer Peter Gammons appeared on NESN today speculating about the Red Sox batting order in 2011. The additions of left handed hitters Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford have fans wondering if a lineup that already features David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew leans further to the left than Keith Olbermann. How will manager Terry Francona balance his lineup with so many lefties?
"[Francona] is not sure," Gammons said. "It depends on whether Jacoby Ellsbury is completely healthy.
"It's very clear Terry would like to go: Ellsbury, [Dustin] Pedroia -- who really doesn't like to lead-off, Crawford -- who really doesn't like to lead-off, Gonzalez, [Kevin] Youkilis, Ortiz."
If Francona uses the lineup that Gammons suggests, four out of the Sox first six hitters will swing from the left side. Can that lineup run the gauntlet of left-handed studs in the American League East, namely, C.C. Sabathia, David Price and Brian Matusz?
Research shows it can.
Assuming health, lead-off man Ellsbury is a career .307 hitter against southpaws. He only had 17 at-bats against them last season, due to injury, but batted .318 against them in 192 ABs in 2009.
Crawford only hit .254 against them last season (compared to .329 against righties), but has a career line of .270/.315/.382 versus left-handers.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, raked left-handed pitching last year to the tune of .335/.338/.444. He did, however, display less power against lefties (.510 slugging vs. righties).
As for Ortiz, the DH had a .222/.275/.324 mark last year, but hit .308/.390/.462 against them as recently as 2007. Also, Francona could spell Ortiz against elite lefties by replacing him with Mike Cameron (career .272 AVG) or Darnell McDonald (career .296 AVG).
Gammons also said Boston might use Drew as the lead-off hitter if Ellsbury hasn't recovered completely from his rib injury. He struggled mightily against them last year (.208 AVG), but is a career .250/.357/.411 hitter against the left side.
Whatever the lineup, the Red Sox should have no problem matching the 818 runs they scored in 2010 that ranked them behind only the Yankees in the AL.