Lineup structure has been a widely viewed topic this offseason. Dexter Fowler was signed to add athleticism to a lineup that grew stagnant at times and perpetually base to base. I believe that Fowler was acquired to not only play centerfield, but more importantly to hit in the lead off spot.
This is not a knock to Matt Carpenter, whom I think is one of the most widely underrated players in baseball, but a chance for him to really step into a run producing role in the lineup. I’m also a believer in stigma assigned with lineup spots. The second spot in the lineup is where analytics show to hit the best hitter. I kind of buck that trend by seeing the three spot as the best spot for the best lineup presence.
In between the top spot of Fowler, and the three hole in Carpenter, I see a great fit for Aledmys Diaz. I posted an article last week showing I’m bullish on Diaz. He is a fantastic base runner. Projected to have the lowest OBP in the top three spots, but also the lowest strikeout percentage. He puts the ball in play. This will allow the offense to get creative.
The biggest beneficiary of the new lineup configuration will be Stephen Piscotty. A hot first half of the season last year, while slow a little in the second half. That may be attributed by a couple of factors. It was his first full season facing major league competition. Kyle Reis asked another question earlier this month, was he adjusting too much to his lineup spot? I agree that Piscotty would be the intellectual type of player to over think his role. Kyle noted that his strikeout rate jumped month to month starting in June. That is also very positive with him trying to muscle up in the clean up spot as opposed to the two hole.
Even factoring a relatively slow finish, at .363, Piscotty easily lead the team in hitting with runners in scoring position. With the current lineup configuration, Piscotty will have high on base men in the top three spots. Fangraphs has projected the top three men in the order to all get on base at over .340 clips. Fowler (.359), Carpenter (.370), Diaz (.340).
Digging a little deeper into potential run scoring chances, Fowler (.63%), and Diaz (.54%) were both over the 50% plateau of extra bases taken. Carpenter also took an extra base .41% of the time. This may be a reach, but Kolten Wong, the most likely candidate to hit eighth in the order, took and extra base 50% of the time.
Stephen Piscotty will have a chance to blow projections out of the water. The run scoring opportunities should be plenty. One would think that he will hold up over a full season after getting his legs back underneath him. He’s the kind of player to fully entrench himself into the idea of being a clean up hitter. I see Piscotty with the ability to hit 25 homer so with 35 doubles year in, year out. With OBP and base running ability players in front of him, Piscotty will add something missing from then Cardinal lineup since 2012, a 100 RBI man
Thanks for reading.