Roster Shuffle Pays Immediate Dividends For Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals

By Thom Tsang
Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Isn’t it nice when things work out exactly as they were intended?

Sometimes, MLB managers will end up making some choices that are pretty ‘out there’. Then again, there are some moves that are practically scream sensible. Moving a leadoff guy hitting over .300 with past success there wouldn’t necessarily be what you’d call the epitome of sensibility, but when that hitter is walking just 3.6 percent of the time?

Well, that’s another story, isn’t it.

At least, Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost thought so, as he played the lineup shuffle game with his 23rd-ranked (128 runs) offense on Thursday, moving leadoff hitter Alex Gordon to the No. 3 spot, bumping Billy Butler to cleanup and moving Lorenzo Cain and his .327/.383/.455 triple slash to second, where he’d provide a 1-2 speed threat with Alcides Escobar.

And what do you know? It immediately paid dividends.

Okay, so the leadoff thing didn’t work particularly well for Escobar (0-for-5, yikes), but Gordon redeemed the decision with a strong night at the plate, going 2-for-4 and taking immediate advantage of his higher-leverage RBI producing position, driving home the Royals’ first two runs of the game with a two-run home run after Cain got on base in the fourth.

Not only did it spark the four-run inning that gave team all they needed to take a 6-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles, but the change to have a Gordon in the spot may have also had some residual effects on those below him in the lineup, as Kansas City got Eric Hosmer‘s first home run of the season, and Mike Moustaskas‘ third.

Alright, so maybe the pay-it-forward thing doesn’t actually exist, but it sure seemed like it, as the Royals scored as many runs as they had over the rest of the three-game set combined to salvage a sweep and move to 18-13 on the season.

As for Gordon? Well, he’s having quite another year thus far, with a .316/.340/.522 triple-slash post game, though his walk rate continued to tumble down to 3.5 percent. Part of that is the result of pitchers going after him with a 50.6 percent pitches inside the zone, a career-high — though, the way he’s hitting, that seems to scarcely matter at the moment.

That said, it may eventually be an issue. Gordon is getting away with a little bit of help from the baseball gods right now, maintaining a very high .364 BABIP despite hitting fewer line drives (19.2 percent, a four-year low) and a whole lot of balls in the infield (career-high 12.2 percent, 4.9 percent career). Though he has been a high-BABIP guy over the last two years, his batted ball profile is a bit wonky here.

No. 3 in the lineup long-term doesn’t seem likely. In fact, there’s actually a pretty compelling argument to put him at second behind Cain leading off, but hey, as long as it works, right?

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