A Simple Kind of Fan. Should Prince Be Hitting Third? 3.8.11
No, this isn’t another column pondering a swap of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder in the batting order. That move has been done a few times in the past and the results have never panned out. Usually both players scuffle and they eventually end up back in their usual order of Braun then Fielder. However, due to the complete black hole in the batting order after Casey McGehee, I am suggesting that the order go Weeks, Braun, Fielder, Hart, McGehee, etc.
Before we discuss why the lineup should be a certain way, let’s take a look at conventional wisdom on how a lineup should be constructed. It is generally accepted that the third hitter is usually the team’s best overall hitter and the fourth hitter is usually the team’s best power hitter. Who is Milwaukee’s best hitter? Is this judged by batting average, or the amount of times a player is on base? I believe Prince is the team’s best hitter because he gets on base the most, with over a .400 OBP each of the last two years. If Prince hit third, then who hits fourth with power? We already know Braun struggles when hitting behind Prince, so we will have to look elsewhere. How about Corey Hart? He led the team in Slugging (.525) and only had one HR (31) less than Prince in 2010. Of course, having Hart hit in front of McGehee also gives the Brewers an added base running dimension they currently do not have.
I believe that Prince Fielder’s power struggles last season were a combination of losing Mike Cameron in the batting order and not having a second threat behind him in the lineup. Prince had lower home run and slugging totals in 2010, in part because teams were not going to allow him to drive the ball and beat them. Remember, Cam had AT LEAST a 4.2 WAR, 24 HR’s, and an OPS of around .800 in each season. He was the second player (with power) pitchers had to go through if they decided to walk Prince. In 2010, Casey McGehee had another solid, regression free season for the Brewers. However, he was the sole power threat (23 HR’s) after Prince in the lineup. This year is particularly challenging because after McGehee, the lineup is probably going to shake out as Betancourt, LuCroy, pitcher, and Gomez. Obviously, Prince is going to have very little protection in the order without moving things around.
Moving Prince up in the order will also help the running game. We have been learning that Ron Roenicke likes to be aggressive on the bases. Considering that the team has always been hesitant to run in front of Prince in the past, having him and Casey back-to-back in the order is the slowest possible combination of speed, outside of a lineup involving Ruben Quevedo, the Brewers can offer. Weeks and Braun probably will still not run much in front of Prince, but at least having Hart hit fourth will allow him and McGehee to get the hit and run going. Additionally, McGehee is perhaps the team’s best hitter to right field. Having Hart in front of him in the order would also help cut down on Casey’s team leading 18 GDP he had last season. I believe Hart’s above average speed will be utilized more in 2011 and not wasted hitting in front of Braun and Fielder.
Prince has no choice but to continue to take his walks in 2011. Doing so will continue to put an enormous amount of pressure on McGehee to produce. Given the lack of offense after Casey in the order, having the lineup go Weeks, Braun, Fielder, Hart, and McGehee will provide a couple things. First, it will provide more protection for Fielder in the lineup. Second, it will allow Hart to utilize his speed more effectively in the running game. If nothing is changed, ask yourself this question: Are you comfortable with Yuni Betancourt hitting in the sixth spot and getting ample RBI opportunities while Prince stands on base? In order to prevent that scenario from taking place at least once every game, this type of switch in the lineup needs to be considered.
So far, so good! Through Monday, he has a .412/.444/.588 slash line; coupled with one actual BB is a great start! Defensively, he has 1 error in 15 chances and has actually turned 4 double plays. You might want to wait until after the games matter before declaring him a candidate for MVP, but maybe, just maybe, Yuni can help the Brewers this season.
Throwback of the week.
This week I am going to take a look at Don Money. He played eleven seasons for Milwaukee. Most fans probably don’t realize that Money ranks fourth all time in career WAR for the Brewers. His finest season was perhaps 1977 when he ranked 15th in the AL in WAR. By the time I started watching the Brewers as a youngster, Money’s best days were behind him and he was essentially a bench and utility player. I like this powder blue throwback and I know for a fact there are not many Don Money jerseys rolling through the Miller Park turnstiles.
In my old school selection this week, I am tipping my hat to Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN. Their very wise decision to fire Joe Morgan was a about decade too late, but better late than never. For me, the prospect of an enjoyable Sunday night viewing season (despite watching the same 6 teams play each week) is as high as it has ever been. The Hall of Famer Morgan was obviously a heck of a player, but didn’t start playing regularly until 1965. Considering that I just love the old Houston Colts (now Astros) jersey and logo, a Joe Morgan throwback from 1964 is a RARE jersey and is under $40.
A season you probably have forgotten about by now.
As some of you might know, I have a serious interest in history. In Major League Baseball’s storied history, there are many instances where the top talent was not necessarily on the field. The barring of dark skinned Hispanics and African Americans until 1947 is a great example. Consequently, we are left to simple guess how many home runs Josh Gibson would have hit or how many games Satchel Paige would have won. As another example, today I am going to look at baseball during WWII.
The game was different during the four seasons that the war raged in Europe, and later in Asia. Many of the then current stars such as Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio, Stan Musial, Bob Feller, and Warren Spahn participated in the military effort. In fact, Spahn served in such a distinguished manner during the Battle of the Bulge, that he earned a bronze star, a purple heart, and a battlefield commission! The game, as a result, was watered down during this period due to a lack of star power. Many Americans, as well as President Roosevelt, felt it was essential to American morale to keep the game going.
One season during this era of baseball that you probably have forgotten belonged to pitcher Ken Raffensberger of the Philadelphia Blue Jays in 1944. Raffensberger is known as one of the unluckiest pitchers in the history of baseball in part because of his 1944 season with the Jays, who were perennially lousy during their time in Philadelphia. In 1944, Ken pitched 259 innings and had a record of 13-20. He was a 20 game loser with an ERA of 3.06 and a FIP of 2.49. This means not only was he unlucky, but his defense and bad luck was costing more than an additional ½ run per game. In fact, in 1944, Raffensberger led all of baseball in losses, while being 2nd overall in FIP. That is extremely difficult to do. Ken was a good pitcher strapped with a bad defense and terrible run support. If Raffensberger played for the Red Sox or the Yankees I am positive we would all know about him, but instead he is forever ‘remembered’ as a player with a season you have probably forgotten about by now.
The season is getting closer, so it must be time to consider a fantasy baseball league. If you have interest, please leave a comment and indicating so. I think we would do a simple ESPN 5×5. Personally, I like head to head leagues, but that is certainly open to discussion. I play in several serious leagues (don’t tell my wife!), but I would be more than happy to run a fun league.
Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon
March 31st. The Brewers open the regular season on the road versus the division champs.
April 8-10. Cubs v. Brewers, Act One.
Shameless Self Promotion
Please don’t forget to follow my new Twitter account, @simplekindoffan. If you aren’t following me, then you are missing out on useless posts such as this.