June 29, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon hits a double in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
A lineup shouldn’t be rocket science. You want to give your guys who get on base the most plate appearances, therefore they should hit higher in the order. The funny thing about the Royals… For all their organizational faults, they were actually accomplishing that. The Royal most likely to avoid an out? Yep, leadoff hitter Alex Gordon. He led the team in OBP last year and is atop the team leaderboard this season.
The worst part about this: Batting Gordon in the leadoff spot felt like the Royals were thinking outside the box. For once. It felt almost revolutionary. Especially for a manager in love with small ball like Yosty.
There are 10,000 problems with this team. Believe me, I feel like I’ve documented all of them. And Alex Gordon isn’t one. Neither is Alex Gordon hitting leadoff. Why in the world would you take something that works and decide to make a change, just for the sake of making change. And it’s not about this potentially hurting Gordon the player. A good hitter is a good hitter. Although A1 himself has said that he has a different approach when he hits in the top spot of the lineup. This is about potentially hurting the team. The team that already struggles to score runs.
Sadly, this feels like another step back. (Isn’t what this season has been about? One giant step back.) Now, it’s all about the "speed" guys and turning Gordon into an "RBI" guy. It’s that old school baseball paradigm that’s been exposed as complete and utter BS. Now Yost - an old school baseball guy if there ever was - is now balancing the ledger. They’re moving their best hitter - in the lone example of where they ignored the paradigm - to accommodate the old school ideas. This just doesn’t make sense.
The new school says this move is nuttier than Trey Hillman on a unicycle. Alex Gordon has a .369 OBP. Not only is that the best on the team, it’s just outside the top 10 in the AL. Also, Gordon sees 4.01 pitches per at bat. Guess what… That’s the highest rate on the Royals. League average is 3.83. So you have a guy who does everything a good leadoff hitter should do - work the count and get on base. He’s the leadoff man. Eureka!
And guess what… The Royals fail to see the value in that.
I’m empathetic to what the Royals are trying to do. They are trying to generate runs. Except their logic is fuzzy. Moving A1 to third, Gordon is now supposed to be an "RBI" guy. Who is he going to drive in? Once the lineup turned over, he was basically hitting behind Getz, Dyson, et al. This shuffle doesn’t make it any more likely Gordon will find himself in an RBI situation. It only serves to give Chris Getz, Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain more plate appearances.
Which isn’t a good thing.
Dyson? Sure, he’s fast. His .335 OBP in over 275 plate appearances give you hope that he can continue to reach base. Although that OBP is low for a leadoff man. Plus, I have my doubts about Dyson as a player. Anyway, I don’t buy the guy as anything more than a fourth outfielder or pinch runner.
Cain? Man, I just don’t see where the Royals get this. I’ve spoken to a few talent evaluators who feel that Cain is more of a bottom half of the lineup guy. Decent enough hitter, but not someone you can count on to reach base enough to hit in the number one or two spot. This reeks of Yosty tying himself to a position in the field to a position in the lineup. You know… Dyson is a center fielder and leadoff man, but he’s not going to play every day so when Cain is in the lineup, he’s a center fielder too… Ergo, he’s the leadoff man.
Cain won’t get on base near enough to justify this. He walks around 6 percent of the time in the majors and while that’s a small sample size, I implore you to remember this is the Royals. Walk rates don’t go up on Dayton’s watch.
Getz? Why? Why do the Royals try to insert Getz in just about every situation on this team? The day Getz hits leadoff… Sorry, I don’t want to go there. It’s a dark, dark place.
I’d bump into Dayton.
The Royals lineup isn’t very good, no matter how you stack it. Aside from Gordon, only Butler is a hitter that inspires confidence. It’s not surprising that the runner Butler has brought home to score most frequently is Gordon. (You know how you can make this happen more often? Move Butler to third and leave him there. That’s another post.) On Thursday, I heard the argument that if Moustakas and Hosmer had been having better offensive seasons, this move wouldn’t be considered. That’s a patently insane line of thinking. You’re lineup isn’t getting the job done, so you shuffle it around so your one area of strength is diminished.
Typical Royals. Our time, indeed.