The Los Angeles Angels have struggled mightily to find balance in their lineup this year, thanks in no small part to the poor performances of Albert Pujols (.240) and Josh Hamilton (.216), who were supposed to be the one-two punch of an unstoppable offense.
Manager Mike Scioscia has never shied away from shaking up the lineup when the offense has turned stale during his 14 year tenure at the helm for the Halos, and he did it again in Sunday’s doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox; Mike Trout was moved from second to leadoff, Erick Aybar was moved from leadoff to ninth and most notably, Hamilton was moved from cleanup to second.
I can see why Scioscia decided to change things up in this way. The Halos simply cannot afford to admit defeat on Hamilton less than halfway through the season (not to mention the $125 million balance of his contract), and Scioscia admitted that the move was geared towards jump-starting the right fielder’s ailing bat.
Moreover, Aybar’s struggles in the leadoff spot (.267) have appropriately landed him at the bottom of the order.
The biggest bright spot in the lineup, however, has been the magnificent performance of second baseman Howie Kendrick, whose average soared to .328 after the doubleheader against Boston.
Moving Kendrick to the second slot would help spark Pujols and Hamilton, in addition to giving the Angels more flexibility at the bottom of the order.
For one thing, both sluggers—Hamilton in particular— have looked absolutely terrible against off-speed pitches this season, and consequently they have been fed a steady diet of breaking balls by opposing pitchers. By putting Kendrick second after Trout, pitchers would be forced to pitch to the big boys with runners on base.
Such a move would also ensure that each Halo is batting in his natural position; Hamilton is simply not a number two hitter in any way. He is paid to do one thing and one thing only, and that is swing for the fences. This is the job description of a cleanup hitter, not a number two. Kendrick, on the other hand, is no stranger to batting second in his career, and his performance this season justifies a move up in the order. The second baseman is also a threat to steal bases (81 on his career), while Hamilton is not.
Finally, Kendrick batting second would give the Angels some additional flexibility at the bottom of the order. With outfielder Peter Bourjos set to return to action today, the Halos have more options to fill out the 6-9 slots. Though interim outfielder B.J. Shuck may be sent back to the minors after Bourjos’ return, the Halos would not be in such bad shape with Alberto Callaspo, Chris Iannetta/Hank Conger, Bourjos and Aybar rounding out the bottom of the order. Shuck could be called up at any time should one of these Halos fall to injury.
The Los Angeles offense has been a huge disappointment this season. Scioscia has taken a step in the right direction by shaking up the order, but the Angels’ best chance of reversing their fortunes would be to move Kendrick to the second spot. Doing so would create more RBI opportunities in the middle of the lineup, and would put on display the dynamic offense that Halo fans have waited to see all season.
Tony Baker is a Los Angeles Angels blogger for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter at @tonloc_baker