As a general rule, lineup decisions that get scrutinized by fans are meaningless. The difference between where a player hits in the lineups has a minuscule impact on the game, as has been established by multiple sabremetric-type studies.
That said, it is possible to put the wrong nine players on the field.
The platoon advantage is very real (The Book by Tom Tango and others does a great job breaking down the specific advantages) and Terry Francona often attempts to use this advantage to get the most out of his lineup.
But sometimes a player is simply too good to be platooned.
The Indians don’t currently have any choices as obvious as that example, but Francona is still overthinking things.
Last night, in what essentially amounts to a playoff series against Kansas City, Francona started Chris Gimenez at first base.
|1. Chris Gimenez||.200||.286||.263||21.1%|
|2. David Murphy||.247||.338||.293||15.9%|
Gimenez has posted some respectable numbers against lefties at times during his career, but he’s 31 years old and barely clinging to a job at the major league level. Compared to veteran David Murphy, this is essentially the same thing as Thome versus Sexson, and the numbers support that.
By no means is Murphy a threat (although he is batting .348 against lefties since June 1), but all signs pointed to him having a better game at the plate than Gimenez.
To no one’s surprise, aside from maybe Francona, Gimenez went 0-3 and saw a grand total of six pitches from Royals starter David Duffy.
Starting Carlos Santana at first, and having Murphy DH would have been the obvious decision yesterday.
I understand that Kipnis is struggling, and has been all season. But the struggles from Kipnis’ 181 plate appearances against lefties this season are hardly enough evidence to support Francona’s theory that a 33-year-old Aviles is the better option.
Entering this season, in over 500 plate appearances against lefties, Kipnis posted a .261 average vs lefties with a .334 on-base percentage.
If Kipnis were 35 years old, maybe an argument could be made to trust his current season over his career numbers. But at age 27, it’s far more likely that Kipnis’ will soon enter a hot streak against lefties rather than continue to flounder at his current rate.
Aviles, on the other hand, is a known commodity—and not a good one at that. Over the past three season, Aviles is batting .257 with a .297 on-base percentage against lefties.
Would these changes have made a difference in the outcome of Monday’s game? I have no idea. Maybe not. But if we’re going to fall short in this playoff race, let’s do it with our most talented lineup on the field.