The season is very young, but we have already seen seven different lineups in as many games (after today). There has been little to no consistency from Eric Wedge when choosing who is going to trot out onto the field in any given day.
Robert Andino will be making his third start of the year and we are just a week in, as will Jason Bay. Raul Ibanez made his third start yesterday. That means the M’s bench has started almost half of the teams games already. I don’t know this for certain, but I think you would be hard pressed to find another team that can say that, assuming they don’t have a full platoon situation going on. But that’s the way Wedge seems to be treating it. He hasn’t said it directly, but it seems painfully clear that he views the bench players as more than that, for some unknown and, in my opinion, stupid reason or another.
On top of that, the only spot in the batting order that has remained the same in every game thus far is Michael Morse in the clean-up spot. He and Kyle Seager are the only players to have not received days off. Seager, though, has bounced between the 2,6, and now 7 hole, so he has not been a permanent fixture yet either. And to me, Morse is a guy who I would give the days off to when necessary. Now, granted he did get to DH one day, but other than that he has been in the lineup every game. With his injury history and poor defense, if I really had to give someone an off day, he would be near the top of the list to receive it. Not Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders or Justin Smoak. Everyone needs a rest hear and there, but these young guys don’t need 2 days rest in the first week of the season.
So again we see a sign that Wedge wants to treat this as a time-share situation rather than using Raul, Bay, etc. as bench guys when the regulars actually need a rest.
Now, questionable lineup’s are not new to Wedge. They have been a theme in the past as well, including sitting Dustin Ackley on his bobble head day, a game I attended as was furious about. I mean, c’mon Wedgie. Don’t be that guy.
I can understand bringing Franklin Gutierrez along slow as well, but the dude is mashing the ball to start the year, and has not shown any signs of injury that I have seen. Sitting him the day after he mashed a leadoff dinger as well as a double just doesn’t fly with me. Even if it is a right handed pitcher, whom Guti struggles against.
Now, possibly the biggest gripe I have with this is that it seems that Wedge doesn’t know his players’ strengths and weaknesses. For example, both Saunders and Ackley hit better against lefties last season, despite being left handed themselves. That is a fairly rare occurrence. Because of that, I get the feeling that Wedge just assumes that is the case with them, and is not paying attention to the stats. Stats like Ackley’s .299 wOBA vs lefties last season, compared to .260 against righties. Despite that, Wedge has made a point to sit Ackley against any and all tough lefties the M’s face. Or his career .291 wOBA vs lefties compared to Andino’s .289. Or even Saunders’s .333 wOBA vs LHP compared to .313 vs RHP–which seems a little less prominent as Saunders is playing pretty regularly.
Those are all things that do need to be considered when creating lineups. Not everything is always that cut and dry. So in his attempt to maybe ease the pressure off Ackley–who is off to a very slow and worrying start–by sitting him against lefties, Wedge may be making it worse by not letting him hit against those he finds more success off of. And if this pattern continues, it could present a problem for Ackley in the future as he is getting even less of a shot against lefties (only about 30% of pitchers are left-handed) than normal.
EDIT: I have been imformed of some peripherals of Ackley’s that suggest his R/L splits will most likely change, as well as about how tough Sale is against lefties (which I knew). While that is true, I still maintain that he should be out there over Andino, assuming there was no injury or anything, which I don’t think there was considering Ackley came in as soon as a righty entered.
These guys need consistency. They need to find a groove and keep it. It’s pretty tough to do that when you aren’t even sure if you are going to play that day. The starters should be just that–starters. They should be playing every day of the week for the most part , save for maybe one day off every two or three weeks. Raul’s bat is not good enough to require consistent playing time. Neither is Bay’s or Andino’s especially. Those are bench guys, who, believe it or not, are supposed to be on the bench in a large majority of the games. As simple as that sounds to us, Wedge seems to find it extremely difficult to comprehend.
Let’s just hope that this phase will go away soon enough. That for some unknown reason Wedge just wants to ease people in to start the year, and get everyone a little bit of playing time now or whatever. I don’t know how to rationalize it, it doesn’t make any damn sense to me either. But maybe. I mean, it is Wedge we are dealing with. As it says in the title, he makes me want to use the word “imbecile” for the first time ever, with an emphasis on the -ile like in the word “bile” (is that the British pronunciation?), which also comes to mind when I see Ibanez and Morse in the same outfield.
What do you guys think of Wedge’s lineup creation so far this season, and do you think it will continue throughout the year?