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ALDS 2014: Constructing the Orioles lineup

Which lineups should Buck Showalter put on the field? Are they best lineups the O's have?

Rob Carr

The three-day wait is finally over. Although we are not certain of the O's roster or even the rotation beyond Chris Tillman for Game 1, we can make some educated guess as to the lineup the O's will put out on the field tonight. We can also look for improvements to be made to the probable lineup by Buck Showalter.

This is my guess of the lineup against right-handed pitchers, namely Max Scherzer for Game 1, Justin Verlander for Game 2 and Rick Porcello for Game 4.

1. Nick Markakis RF

2. Alejandro De Aza LF

3. Adam Jones CF

4. Nelson Cruz DH

5. Steve Pearce 1B

6. J.J. Hardy SS

7. Ryan Flaherty 3B

8. Caleb Joseph/Nick Hundley C

9. Jonathan Schoop 2B

I am extremely confident about seven spots of the lineup, as this has been pretty much the standard for the last month of the season. The only spots in question are the third base and the catcher. Steve covered the third base situation extensively yesterday, and I agreed that Flaherty is the likely choice by Buck. The catcher situation is just as muddled. Joseph made a few more starts than Nick Hundley in September, despite his struggles at the plate at the end of the season. I presume that they would split the time behind the plate again in the playoffs.

What possible improvements can we make to this lineup? The first idea that came to mind is to split up Markakis and De Aza. They are two left-handed bats in a lineup dominated by right-handed hitters. Splitting them up would make it more difficult for the Tigers to match their relievers late in the game. Furthermore, despite his success with the O's in September, De Aza is not on the same level as Jones, Cruz and Pearce in terms of batting. I would prefer De Aza hitting in the fifth spot, with Pearce filling the second spot on the lineup. I would also start Kelly Johnson and Joseph instead of Flaherty and Hundley. Both are choices on the margins, but for me, Johnson's advantage at the plate outweighs his deficiency on the field, and Joseph's glove more than makes up for his lesser bat.

How about the lineup against the southpaw David Price in Game 3? This is my best guess based on the limited number of games the O's have played against southpaws in September.

1. Nick Markakis RF

2. Steve Pearce 1B

3. Adam Jones CF

4. Nelson Cruz LF

5. Delmon Young DH

6. J.J. Hardy SS

7. Ryan Flaherty/Jimmy Paredes/Kelly Johnson 3B

8. Caleb Joseph/Nick Hundley C

9. Jonathan Schoop 2B

De Aza has not started a single game against a left-handed pitcher since traded to the O's, so he is replaced by Young as the DH in the lineup. Again, third base and catcher are the two positions that are unclear. I have no idea whether Buck believes in Paredes's bat enough to put him at third base where he has struggled mightily, in spite of his platoon advantage. Paredes has also struggled in the field.

I have no problem with sitting De Aza against Price. My suggestion for this lineup remains the same. Start Johnson and Joseph. Paredes has no history whatsoever of being the hitter he has been for less than a month this season, and his defensive struggles are too glaring to ignore. For Joseph, though it's difficult to overlook his batting line in September, for the season, he has hit for a wRC+ of 72 compared to Hundley's 75. It's not so difficult to choose Joseph over Hundley given that they have been offensive equals this season.

The O's lineup has been decimated by the injuries of Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, and the suspension of Chris Davis. Buck has limited options as to his choices in the lineup. While they might not be optimal in my mind, they would not be significantly different from what I have in mind.