With Angels Contracts Complete, It’s Time for Starting Lineup Roulette

With this week’s news that the Angels have reached one-year deals, avoiding arbitration with both Eric Aybar and Alberto Callaspo, the team appears to be mostly set for the season. Although, I don’t think anyone would mind another reliable arm for the bullpen, should it just happen to present itself and, you know, except for the “will they be ready or won’t they” injury situations with Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales. Hey, you can’t have everything, right? …except, perhaps, when Jerry Dipoto is starting off his Haloed tenure with a bang, so we’ll see. *whistles softly*

At any rate, traditionally this is the time to start predicting lineups, rotations and such. But, let’s be honest. Being an Angels fan adds a certain layer – or, like 10! – of, shall we say, complexity to this age old pastime. Oh, I can predict the starting rotation with ease and a fair bit of certainty: Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, Ervin Santana and Jerome Williams. And don’t think I didn’t all kinds of delicious little shivers up and down my arms typing that list of names just now. The 2012 starting rotation rocks. Hard. But moving past that and on to predicting the lineup? That’s another story. This is, after all, a Mike Scioscia team, she types with affection.

The boys at Hot Stove proposed this starting lineup shortly after Albert Pujols was signed:

The Angels 2012 Lineup, as proposed by Hot Stove.

And as lineups go, it makes a certain amount of sense. But it has two major flaws. 1) Relegating Trumbo to a part time DH role (What a waste! At that point, trade him.) and, even more importantly, 2) it only allows for 4 different variations. Four…Amateurs! 😉

First, let’s consider the leadoff spot. Sosh will never stick to just one leadoff man. Yes, Aybar will fill that role frequently no doubt, but expect to see Peter Bourjos and Macier Izturis (provided he isn’t eventually part of trade for say, a bullpen arm, just to pull something completely out of thin air) in the leadoff spot a fair number of times as well. And then there will be those really random days, when Sosh is either feeling extra spicy or he thinks the guys need a kick in the pants. On those days we might find Howie Kendrick, Mike Trout or even Alberto Callaspo striding to the plate ahead of everyone else. You just never know with Scioscia.

Then there’s the cleanup spot. Albert Pujols is clearly the logical choice. But sometimes Scioscia likes to mix things up and bat the toughest slugger in the 5th spot. At that point you might see Trumbo or Morales take a turn batting 4th. And should the offense start to enter any lengthy slumps (Which you won’t do in 2012, right guys? Right?) expect to see some downright crazy things take place with the cleanup spot. In 2011 Maicer batted 4th in, I believe, two games.

And, really, that’s only the beginning. Torii’s natural place in the lineup is batting 3rd. But when he has an off week or two, expect to see him moved to batting 2nd…at which point he is likely to change his walkup song to Movin’ On Up again because, is there anyone who has more fun during a game than Torii? As much sure, but more? Nah, didn’t think so.

You can be sure that Trout and Bourjos will play in the same game many times throughout the season. And, in addition to taking the leadoff role some of the time, Bourjos will probably bat 2nd a few times as well. And the minute Trout comes into his own at the plate, Chris Iannetta is likely to see some time in the 9th spot – it’s an Angels catchers’ tradition, after all. Alberto Callaspo consistently has one of the highest batting averages on the team. He’s sure to spend some time batting 2nd or 3rd. And what of Bobby Abreu? So far I haven’t heard any noise about trading him. If he’s still with the team come Opening Day, I’m sure there will be several lineup variations featuring him at DH too…

…And this? This is just what I have come up with typing darn near stream of consciousness for a few minutes. Imagine what Scioscia will come up with given an entire season to plot and plan? That said, is any of this constant lineup shifting effective? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. On the average, I’d say it’s probably neither a good thing, nor a bad thing. It’s just Scioscia’s thing. And we fans gripe about it when the team is losing and joke about it with affection when the team is winning. Either way, I’ll not be attempting to diagram all of that variation into one master lineup, slash marks or not, thank you very much. 🙂



    • This is a very simple game...

      Ron – I was mainly using the lineup the Hot Stove crew suggested (with Pujols in 4th) as a platform to joke about Scioscia’s penchant for constant lineup tweaking. 111 lineups in 162 games! You see some strange arrangements when that happens. I’m sure Pujols will bat 3rd a fair bit too. But one of the problems with the Angels lineup is that once Morales was injured we never had a true 4th spot hitter and had a 3rd spot hitter who was inconsistant. Scioscia won’t bat someone as young as Trumbo 4th and covering the 4th and 3rd spots in the lineup by committee was messing up a lot of swings as guys for whom it wasn’t natural strove to swing for the fences. This lead to still more coverage by committee. Adding Pujols to that lineup with no additional changes solves part of the problem, but still leaves the question of who’s batting 4th wide open, unless Morales can play and play well this season. With that question hanging there, I imagine Albert’s going to be the answer a fair number of games. I am intrigued to see how it all plays out.

      — Kristen

  1. Red State Blue State

    Your best hitter ALWAYS hits third. That would be where AP should be. No where else. Outside of his rookie season, I can’t even remember a time when he didn’t hit third. To me Morales is the logical clean up guy.

    • This is a very simple game...

      If Morales is healthy, which I’m not counting on, I would agree Jeff and I’m sure Scioscia will bat Albert 3rd, a lot…and 4th and maybe 5th because that’s just the way the guy is. You have to do some pretty strange stuff to squeeze 111 different lineups into a mere 162 games. See my response to Ron for some additional thoughts.

      — Kristen

  2. Mateo Fischer

    There is a great line up for the Angels amongst the group of players we see. I personally don’t like the slashes where they are. It is my understanding that the two T-Bombers [Trout and Trumbo {feel free to use that whenever you want(yay brackets and parentheses!!)}] can play other positions on the field where I see them as far better batsmen at the position than the players MLB Network has currently slotted there (Trumbo at 3B and Trout in LF). If they aren’t to be the favorites at these positions, they should at least be considered, because where they are currently, puting them into the game would come at a much greater opportunity cost than otherwise I.e. you would be taking Kendrys Morales or Peter Bourjous out instead of Alberto Callaspo or Vernon Wells, respectively. There may be a scenario in the future where the first pair underperforms the second, but that is not the current scenario, in my opinion. Anyway, the point is, the Angels are stacked, and definitely have the potential to be a dynamite offense.

    • This is a very simple game...

      Yeah, I wasn’t even going to bother addressing the bad positioning MLB suggested, Mateo. But I think you’re on the right track. Basically, I think Bourjos and Trout should play as close to everyday as possible. Bourjos has the better arm for center and Trout has been great in both corners. So I see Torii and Wells, whoever has the better bat going at any given time, platooning in the remaining outfield spot. Trout can play whichever position they leave vacant. Torii and Wells can also DH when not in the field (assuming Wells finds his bat again) if Kendrys isn’t able to play this season and spell him at DH if he is, because I doubt he will come back from that injury and play full time. I see Trumbo at third and hope that works out. Anyway, I think Sosh is going to try a lot of differnt things but I do see it working pretty well. I am pleased with the tools we have lined up for the season.

      — Kristen

  3. Michael David

    The Angels lineup looks scary, that’s for sure. Once the new years comes around, and you can see spring on the horizon, it’s so much fun to start getting ready for the season. It’s the time of year we really start itching for baseball.
    ‘Minoring In Baseball’

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