Bill, over at Sweet Spot member The Platoon Advantage, has been running a great “3 Questions” series breaking down each team in the bigs. (Incidentally, if you haven’t spent some time hanging out on TPA, go do it. Bill and The Common Man are smart dudes and good writers — even if he did take a little dig at our town in the opening paragraph) Today, he covered the Rays.
Bill’s analysis does two interesting things. He doesn’t use any of this three questions to evaluate the topic most-obsessed about in the local media (the bullpen — like I said, it’s going to be ok people). Instead, he uses the second question to break down an area getting scant attention. Almost everyone has written that the Rays will need to replace Carlos Pena, but Bill goes the next step and notes how that replacement decision starts a domino-effect throughout the rest of the infield.
Because its November, and everyone should be thinking positive thoughts about their favorite team in November, I think the combination of players, holes, and Joe Maddon is a strength for this team. The Rays have eight or nine players — Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez, Ben Zobrist, Dan Johnson, Eliot Johnson, Justin Ruggiano, righthanded hitter to be identified — to fill four positions everyday (LF, RF, 2B, 1B). Heck, we can even throw Leslie Anderson into this mix just to get to 10.
I don’t know if Des will be good enough to play everyday in LF, but I hope he will. I do know that Zobrist and Rodriguez are good outfielders. I do know that Joe Maddon really likes Eliot Johnson and really dislikes Justin Ruggiano. And, I do know that you have to very very good for Joe Maddon to put your name on a lineup card in ink. So, I can envision a scenario where Zobrist spends time at 2B, RF, and 1B. Rodriguez spends time at 2B, RF, and LF. Ruggiano spends time in LF and RF. And some combination of Johnson (1B/DH), unidentified-righthanded-hitter (1B/DH), Eliot Johnson (2B), Desmond Jennings (LF) and Matt Joyce (RF) fill in the rest of the lineup at their respective positions.
So, rather than looking at these players and positions as “questions” I am going to look at them as opportunities for Joe Maddon to use flexible lineups. Yeah. That sounds good.