There are a couple holes in the Boston Red Sox’s lineup. They are primarily near the bottom of the order at center field and catcher. Both Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Vazquez, the primary options at those positions, are hanging out below the Mendoza Line, which is troubling. However, the negative effects have not been as paramount because of all that mashing from J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts. For now, Cora has been able to hide Bradley Jr., Vazquez as well as Eduardo Nunez at the bottom of the order while generally sticking with a pretty consistent lineup card.
But putting together a good lineup is difficult, and not just if you are the Mets. Matchups need to be considered, plus there is constant debate about just what the best way to order batters is. While a lot of traditional thinking has begun to disappear (always bat speedy guys first even if their on-base skills are less than stellar, for example), there is no perfect way to order your batters. There are certainly wrong ways. Putting Martinez ninth would be a major head-scratcher, but, in general, putting together the lineup doesn’t have the largest degree of difficulty.
That brings us to today’s discussion and it centers on Dustin Pedroia. The veteran second baseman is deep in his rehab assignment with Pawtucket and he could be back in the lineup for the big league club by Friday. But where will he fit in that lineup?
The Red Sox have found great success with Betts in the leadoff spot and Martinez batting cleanup. Those spots seemed locked in stone. But the rest of the lineup can be moved around. Pedroia has primarily been utilized in the top third of the order, with 5,649 of his 6,743 career plate appearances coming in spots one through three. Last year he batted lower than third only 30 times. But that was under different management and mostly when he was healthy. It should be expected that Alex Cora will not immediately lock Pedroia into a major run-producing spot as they ease him back into the fold. Once he is up to speed, however, the delicate dance begins.
Andrew Benintendi is the current No. 2 hitter and for a while there, it looked like he should be pushed down the lineup, which would provide an opening for Pedroia. Through May 11, Benintendi had slashed only .243/.335/.404 with a wRC+ of 97. That’s just a bit under league average and not what you want from the two-hole, which some argue is where your best hitter should be stationed. Benintendi has been much closer to that of late, batting .415 in his last 47 plate appearances, which includes a eye-popping 207 wRC+. If Benintendi is really getting into a rhythm, taking him out of the No. 2 spot could be a mistake.
In addition, although Pedroia has batted third and done so with success before (.302/.370/.441), both Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez have generally manned that post this season and although Ramirez is colder right now, both have been solid at worst and great at best. Moreland’s current .313/.395/.596 slash line may be exceptionally unsustainable, but if Cora wants to keep riding the hot hand, then Moreland will probably remain near the top of the order.
After that you’ve got the fifth and sixth places in the order and it is here that Pedroia may be best suited to bat, at least in the short term. While Xander Bogaerts has been having a fine season, Rafael Devers has not yet had the turnaround stretch that Benintendi has enjoyed. Perhaps slotting Pedroia behind Bogaerts at sixth, or just behind Devers to give him some protection, would be a winning strategy.
However it shakes out, getting Pedroia back in the lineup can only be a positive. Its just up to Cora to figure out where the most positive impact can be made.
J.D. Martinez is really good but he thinks he could be better. Is that even possible? (Jason Mastrodonato; Boston Herald)
Martinez and Mookie Betts have partnered up on some interesting exercises to work on their swings. (Julian Benbow; Boston Globe)
David Price has had some ups and downs but Jake Devereaux at BP Boston thinks the downs might be more frequent going forward. I will hear no more of this heresy! (Jake Devereaux; BP Boston)
Mitch Moreland once made plenty of fans in the Cape Cod League. Now he’s doing the same thing a few miles up Route 3. (Peter Gammons; The Athletic) ($$)
Not everyone is Chris Sale, but the rotation has still been good overall. (Matthew Kory; The Athletic) ($$)
Price is trying to help a young cancer survivor meet Taylor Swift. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)
Here’s a nice bowl of offday thought soup from Chad Jennings. (Chad Jennings; The Athletic) ($$)