This season the Red Sox have tried to ride Hanley Ramirez‘ hot bat to produce runs more consistently. Since Ramirez is not a machine and didn’t hit a home run for four games (all losses), the offense, which was able to produce runs with few hits earlier in the season, is sputtering. When Hanley is out of the lineup with his bum shoulder, who should bat cleanup to get the offense going?
The Other Candidates
After last night’s game, Hanley had started 23 of 26 games as the cleanup hitter. So, no one else has much experience this season batting cleanup. Mike Napoli has had experience batting in the cleanup spot in prior years, but this is when he was hitting consistently. It is a mystery why a player goes into a slump, probably most of all to the hitter himself. Napoli showed his frustration last night after popping a ball up with runners on base. He just isn’t hitting right now (.159/.266/.280). There might be an argument that putting him in that spot in Hanley’s absence might get him going. On the flip side, he could feel the pressure and still not perform.
Allen Craig (.146/.222/.220) has been one of the few hitters worse than Napoli this season. He is four for his last 36 with runners in scoring position. The Mendoza line (.200) is a distant dream for him right now. This is a guy who hit .363 in those situations in his last three years in St. Louis. He is in a slump of epic proportions. This is the Jimi Hendrix of slumps, to use a common phrase. If the opposition saw Craig in the cleanup spot in the lineup, they would likely have a good laugh. Craig isn’t the answer.
Why Sandoval Can Bat Cleanup
The Kung Fu Panda himself is the answer. There are few Red Sox hitters as good as he has been lately. Over his last eight games, Pablo Sandoval has hit .413 (12 for 29) with two doubles, two homers and seven RBI. Though he is not a traditional big home run guy (between 10 and 20 a year in his career with a high of 25), someone needs to protect David Ortiz who is not the bad ball hitter that Sandoval is. If they want to pitch around Big Papi, he isn’t going to chase out of the zone to get a hit, he will take the walk.
Sandoval’s right handed hitting has been terrible this year. He is two for 24 with a walk, after starting 0 for 17 from that side. There might be a fear that opposing teams will match up lefties against Papi and Panda and be able to handle them easily. Ortiz’ numbers are similar against lefties this year. This is just a small sample size of course. Do you want to dictate your lineup on one possible matchup a game or have a better lineup for the other three or four at-bats a game?
These are the two best options for the three and four spots in the lineup right now and Manager John Farrell should make the move and start putting runs on the board again.