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The best lineups the 2017 Orioles can use now that Mark Trumbo is coming back

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The ideal Orioles lineup looks a lot different than it did earlier this week now that Mark Trumbo is returning to the team.

Cleveland Indians v Baltimore Orioles
This looks a whole lot like a guy who should be a cleanup hitter.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The projected Orioles lineup for the upcoming season looks different today than it did yesterday. Mark Trumbo will be back, pending physical. With the O’s plugging the slugger who hit 47 regular season home runs back into their lineup, it’s time to revisit the optimal lineup I wrote about earlier in the week.

Lineup construction is generally agreed to not matter all that much, but there’s still an ideal way to do it. Even if it’s not a huge deal, it’d be better to see the Orioles put out their best possible lineups regularly rather than sub-optimal ones.

For the purposes of this post, I’m working with the ideal lineup principles set forth by “The Book,” which you can see explained on SB Nation’s Beyond the Box Score. Manager Buck Showalter doesn’t do what The Book says, so this is not meant to represent the lineup they might actually use.

Showalter knows a lot more about baseball than me and he seems to do OK, so there’s no reason to get worked up about things that are different. This is just for fun.

The first two spots in the order are easy. The ideal leadoff hitter is the one with the best on-base percentage. On the 2016 Orioles, that was Hyun Soo Kim, with a .382 OBP. There is no close second. He is the best to lead off - against right-handed pitchers, at least.

Second, you want to have your best overall hitter. There’s little doubt that this is Manny Machado, who hit 37 home runs last season while batting .294/.343/.533. The reason why Machado should bat second is so that he gets more chances to bat in a game. The more that Machado comes up, the better.

The next-most important spot to fill is the cleanup hitter. The player with the most power should hit here - which lines up with traditional thinking, of course. And it brings us to our first choice:

Cleanup hitter: Chris Davis vs. Mark Trumbo

In a big way, it’s a good problem to have to be choosing between these players for the #4 spot in the order. Both have led MLB in homers. Davis has done it twice. Davis had a bit of a down year last year due to his mystery hand injury, and even then he had 38 bombs. If you think he’s rebounding this year, he’s a fine cleanup choice.

However, I’m going with Trumbo, because 47 home runs is 47 home runs. Yeah, he strikes out a lot, but so does everybody else.

No. 5 hitter: Davis vs. Seth Smith vs. Adam Jones

The Book wants us to put the next-best of our remaining hitters here, “unless he lives and dies with the long ball.” This is because, statistically, the #5 batter tends to get more scoring chances than the #3 hitter does.

Davis doesn’t entirely live and die with the long ball in his best seasons, and he’s walked often even in the years where he’s struggled, but he does strike out a lot. Jones also had some seemingly injury-related struggles last year, though he repeatedly denied the injuries.

Smith brings less of a power bat, and he’s batted under .250 the past two seasons, but he is more likely to put the ball in play, or walk, than Jones. I think he’s the best choice here, with the understanding that I don’t expect Showalter to ever bat Smith fifth.

No. 3 hitter: Davis vs. Jones

Give me Davis here in the hopes that he might hit a dinger if Kim or Machado has gotten on in front of him. That makes Jones our #6 hitter, which, again, I don’t expect to ever happen. The last time Jones batted there was Game 162 of the 2011 season.

Filling in the rest is a matter of taste. I think J.J. Hardy is the hitter with the least potential, so he’s hitting ninth for me. That leaves me choosing between Welington Castillo and Jonathan Schoop for seven and eight. I’ll put Schoop at #7 because of his power potential and leave Castillo or his backup to be the #8 hitter daily.

Which gives us this lineup, at least against right-handed pitchers:

  1. Hyun Soo Kim - LF
  2. Manny Machado - 3B
  3. Chris Davis - 1B
  4. Mark Trumbo - DH
  5. Seth Smith - RF
  6. Adam Jones - CF
  7. Jonathan Schoop - 2B
  8. Welington Castillo - C
  9. J.J. Hardy - SS

I like the look of this lineup. Everyone should like the look of this lineup. Maybe less exciting is the bench of Ryan Flaherty, Joey Rickard, the backup catcher, and... maybe Trey Mancini as a righty bench bat? The bench needs to be used to give the regulars more rest, so get used to seeing them.

What about against left-handed pitchers? I take it as a given that neither Kim nor Smith will play against lefties and that Rickard will be a platoon choice for one of the corner outfield spots. That’s not exciting either, but it’s what’s there.

Do we have Rickard as the leadoff hitter against lefties because the left fielder just always leads off? Well, he did have a .367 OBP against LHP last season, though that was only in 90 plate appearances. The question then becomes: If not Rickard, then who?

The lefty lineup will only get used in 25-30% of games, based on the last couple of years. Surely we can live with Machado at leadoff, possibly “wasting” homers to start a game. But then again, it’s only that first at-bat in a game where you’re guaranteed to have the leadoff guy bat first. And starting a game off with a homer isn’t so bad, anyway.

Not that any of the other choices are easy to make. The simplest solution is just move everybody up the lineup and put our righty bench bats - Rickard and probably Mancini - towards the bottom. Yet that leaves us with Davis-Trumbo-Jones going 2-3-4, which looks really weird and less than ideal.

I’m going with Rickard at leadoff because I’m talking myself into the fact that he saw a lot of pitches last season and an idea that it’s better to keep as many players in the same roles each game as much as possible rather than reshuffle according to The Book for each player’s platoon split. Which gives us this lineup against lefties:

  1. Joey Rickard - LF
  2. Manny Machado - 3B
  3. Chris Davis - 1B
  4. Mark Trumbo - RF
  5. Adam Jones - CF
  6. Jonathan Schoop - 2B
  7. Welington Castillo - C
  8. Trey Mancini - DH
  9. J.J. Hardy - SS

If Mancini is succeeding as the year goes along, he can be moved up, but I’m going to start him off down low until he proves himself more at the MLB level. I expect Showalter to do the same.

Do I want Trumbo in the field? Of course I don’t. But it’s probably better to see that than somebody like Christian Walker, Dariel Alvarez, or Mancini out there. I still like this lineup, even if I’m not so sunny about the outfield defense.

What do you think? How would you line the Orioles up? What do you think the regular lineup that Showalter settles on will look like?