Opening Day should bring hope to baseball teams entering a grueling 162-game season, not raise any concerns. For a Boston Red Sox batting order that left 12 men on base in a 2-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles
on Monday, there were many issues surrounding the placement of the starting lineup that prevented the Red Sox from capitalizing on critical run-scoring opportunities.
One such problem revolved around the decision to have outfielder Daniel Nava lead off for the Red Sox. Nava, who tends to be a solid middle of the lineup hitter, went 0-for-5 in his first stint as a lead off hitter for the Red Sox, resulting in key outs that served as a motivational boost for an Orioles pitching staff that yielded eight hits against Red Sox hitters. Even though Nava has led off for the Red Sox in 35 career games, he has only hit .252, striking out 31 times. His inconsistency in the lead-off position helped the Orioles, who were able to avenge jams and record key outs in Monday’s game.
When making lineups for future games, manager John Farrell should consider other outfielders to bat first in the order. The logical top choice was Shane Victorino, but the veteran outfielder landed on the disabled list with a hamstring strain. Newcomer Grady Sizemore, who was the perennial lead-off batter for the Cleveland Indians, is another valid option to start off a batting order, but Farrell has been insistent that he wants Sizemore to fully settle back into the groove of Major League life before putting him in a pressure-filled situation, such as leading off a game.
In addition to Victorino and Sizemore, Dustin Pedroia might be another logical option for the Red Sox. Pedroia, who has usually settled into his role as the second or third hitter in the Red Sox’ lineup, has actually hit .263 in 87 games as a lead-off hitter. When leading off games (which he did 11 times during the 2013 season), Pedroia tends to be a batter who draws long counts and forces pitchers to work for strikes, often resulting in walks. If Pedroia is given the opportunity to lead off games for the Red Sox, sluggers like David Ortiz and Mike Napoli could capitalize on run-scoring opportunities, maintaining their competency in close games.
Even though Nava has proven to be a versatile hitter within the batting order, his best capabilities are limited to the middle of the order. With active options such as Sizemore and Pedroia, as well as Victorino when he recovers from a lingering hamstring strain, the Red Sox could have a versatile top of the lineup that could set the table for their offensive producers to drive in runs. Even after a game where twelve men were left on base and the Red Sox went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, there can still be hope at the top of the lineup which needs to be solid within a competitive AL East in 2014.