OMG Alfonso Soriano totally batted somewhere other than lead off this weekend!!!!
And then he went back to lead off on Sunday, and the Cubs kicked the Cardinals’ collective ass. Despite the quick reversion to lead off, the move does say something about Piniella’s thoughts on batting order, and he shared them in tandem with the Soriano move.
“We’ll take a look at it and see how it works,” Piniella said before the Cubs opened a three-game series against the Cardinals. “We’ve struggled a little bit scoring runs. We moved Theriot to the leadoff spot. We’ve got [Kosuke] Fukudome in the two-hole, Soriano in the three-hole and [Aramis] Ramirez in the four-hole. Those have been our best hitters.” cubs.com.
“Whatever they want to do to try to make the team better, I’m open,” Soriano said. “If [Piniella] thinks he wants to do something to win, I want to win. If he changed the lineup today because he thinks with that lineup we have a better chance to win, [it's OK].”
…”There’s no difference, really, where you hit in the lineup,” Piniella said. “I can see where some players feel more comfortable in one spot as opposed to another, but the fact remains you’ll get four or five at-bats. Once you get the first at-bat, if you didn’t keep the scorecard, you wouldn’t know where they’re at, if they’re first or wherever.”
Of course, after two losses, Lou followed that statement up with the move of Soriano back to lead off, and this statement: ”I said we’d try it. We did. We’ll just put him in the leadoff spot. That’s where he feels comfortable, and that’s where we’ll leave him.” So I guess maybe Lou does buy some of that “comfort” business.
Here’s the thing: it is not as though (when healthy) this team is going to have but a couple power hitters. In that regard, the Cubs don’t need Soriano’s bat in a run-producing position. Though it has been obvious for years that his best skills were wasted batting lead-off, if there are four other guys on the roster capable of driving in runs with big-time pop, it’s hard to piss and moan (though I’ve done it) about Soriano leading off.
What’s most important is that you have your best hitters hitting back-to-back-to-back. Never give the pitcher a chance to breathe, and stacking the best hitters together dramatically increases the chances of scoring runs. The Cardinals have used this strategy for years. Ever wonder why they constantly were at the top of the league in offense despite having no one who could hit worth shit other than Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds? It’s because they had three big-time hitters all hitting back-to-back-to-back.
Batting Soriano first makes it slightly more difficult, as no one is going to advocate using a guy like Ramirez in the two-hole. If Soriano does go back to lead off, as long as Fukudome keeps hitting like crazy, I like him batting second. But if he falls off, I really hope Lou Piniella resists the not-so-nascent desire to automatically insert a “guy who can handle the bat” into the two-hole. Ideally, with everyone healthy, the Cubs would go with something like: Soriano-Bradley-Ramirez-Fukudome-Lee-Fontenot-Soto-Theriot.
Perhaps more exciting than Soriano’s move down from the leadoff spot is Derrek Lee’s move out of the third spot. Look. Lee is a nice guy, but his third-hitting-days are long past him. But that’s an OMG for another day.