The 2012 Red Sox Lineup We Never Saw

The most recent missing pieces. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

For the third straight year, the Red Sox have had to deal with injury after injury.

That's not to say that the performance of the team as a whole can be excused, or that a healthy Red Sox team is a great Red Sox team, but there's no question that we never really got to see this team at full strength.

In fact, it's been so bad that, despite having no season-ending injuries until late in the year, the Red Sox haven't put their full lineup in the field even one time. And when you think about it, that's pretty sad, given how impressive that might have looked.

With that in mind, I've decided to speculate some about what my ideal 2012 Red Sox lineup would have looked like.

Boston Red Sox vs. RHP

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
  4. David Ortiz, DH
  5. Carl Crawford, LF
  6. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
  7. Cody Ross, RF
  8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
  9. Pedro Ciriaco

Boston Red Sox vs. LHP

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
  4. David Ortiz, DH
  5. Carl Crawford, LF
  6. Cody Ross, RF
  7. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
  8. Kelly Shoppach, C
  9. Mike Aviles, SS

Despite being an exercise in fantasy, I've made a good few concessions to reality here. From a purely mathematical approach, this wouldn't be the best possible lineup. Shoppach and Ciriaco would bat against both types of starters, Crawford would bat lower against LHP if he's in there at all, etc.

But, in reality, you need to make adjustments to keep players from playing in 162 games and others from playing in zero. And of course, everyone has ego, and sometimes it's better to simply give in to that when the alternatives are so mediocre.

Such is the case with Carl Crawford, who is typically mediocre against LHP, but doesn't want to be relegated to the bottom of the order, and has no clear replacement on the bench unless you go all the way back to Darnell McDonald and pretend he's still killing lefties. Traditional thinking would say that batting Carl behind the slow hitters in Gonzalez and Ortiz would minimize his ability to run the bases, but that's a concession I'm willing to make to get Pedroia back to batting second, where he is the most comfortable, and Gonzalez and Ortiz into the 3-4 spots.

What's really striking about this group is how deep it is. Where yesterday we watched Scott Podsednik and Nick Punto batting in the bottom third, Pedro Ciriaco and the catchers are as bad as it gets for either lineup. It's all you can ask for that the guys down there would be able to hit a long ball (or, in Ciriaco's fun small sample size case, .300), so having Will MIddlebrooks, Cody Ross, Kelly Shoppach, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Pedroi Ciriaco forming the bottom three is a big plus that can help turn the lineup over well.

While much of this lineup should be back for next year (if we can ever get past the never-ending injuries) there have to be questions about a few players. Will Jacoby Ellsbury be back, or will the Sox opt to make a deal for the outfielder who's almost guaranteed to test the free agent waters? Will the Sox be content to give Pedro Ciriaco a full opportunity despite his small sample size and reliance on BABIP? Are David Ortiz and Cody Ross going to be back? Will they continue to rely on Jarrod Saltalamacchia despite his inability to put a full season together?

The Sox probably won't lose all of those players, however, and perhaps the most important one in David Ortiz seems likely enough to return. As for the others...any change could potentially be an improvement, especially if you value Jacoby not as a 2011 world beater, but as a solid contact-hitting outfielder.

Only time will tell what direction this group takes in 2013, but at least for now it's just a shame that we never got to see what this team could do if kept together for a significant run. They still wouldn't be World Series favorites--shockingly, none of the players mentioned herein can pitch--but they probably would have been a lot less soul-crushing to watch.

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