Monday, March 24, 2008

Game On!

It is here at last - opening day! By the time you read this, the game may very well be over. But heading into the game, let me give you something to chew on.

The batting order that has been communicated at this point is as follows:

JD Drew

If it does not jump out at you, let me give you a hint. Look at the top of the order. Wouldn't you expect Jacoby Ellsbury to lead off? He did a great job of getting on base last season, and when he gets on base he creates all kinds of trouble for the defense. With his speed he can practically score from first on a sacrifice fly! While that is an exaggeration, he DID score from second base on a wild pitch last year.

So, what gives? Pedroia is a fine batter, but a s...l...o...w runner. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure exactly why the order is the way it is. You may hear that they don't want to put Ellsbury right in the spotlight to start off his "official" rookie season. Well, I would not give that theory much credit. They put Jacoby in the lead off spot as a replacement for the injured Coco Crisp in the World Series! There is no bigger stage than that. If they are willing to bat him lead off in the World Series, then opening day is not a big deal.

Here the real (most likely) reason. Jacoby has not had a great spring offensively. He is not their regular lead off batter (ala Johnny Damon for a few years). So, they are playing him relative to how he is playing right now. I guarantee he will not spend much time batting 8th this season. Terry Francona is simply putting him in a low pressure part of the order while he is looking for his groove at the plate and letting him get his stroke back with less urgency than if he was batting lead off.

Look for Dice-K to have a great game. He is at home, in comfortable surroundings, playing in front of an adoring home crowd. This should be a great game for him. The one thing to watch there is removing a starter during a game is a bigger deal than in the US. I'm sure that won't sway Francona, but I wonder how the Japanese fans will react to it. This time of year, I don't expect starters to go more than 6 innings.

Game On!

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