In baseball every fan no matter how involved, from the casual observer to the most ravenous fan, one thing binds us all, lineup opinions. Everyone has their perfect vision of an ideal flow, the players involved and any variations beyond that for specific situations.
Derek Shelton so far doesn’t agree. Sure, he’s probably hit on your perceived best set up once this season but a ‘trot ‘em out there every day’ style lineup isn’t his intension.
Five games in and we’ve not had the same lineup twice. There are reasons, no doubt, so let’s go through what Derek has said and discuss some of the other factors that have helped perpetuate the lack of consistency.
Factor 1 – Availability
Obvious right? Players are either there or they aren’t, makes sense. COVID has tossed an extra wrench in the works because the dugout isn’t the same catch all it used to be as players are spread out into the actual seats as well. If a player isn’t in the lineup, unless otherwise stated and you don’t see them the mind starts to race.
Factor 2 – Pre-Scripted
One of the more enlightening answers from Derek Shelton about his lineup construction was the revelation he and Don Kelly had sketched out not only rest days for players but went so far as to pre-script weeks out some of the lineups. Obviously, these would have to change based on unforeseen circumstances such as Polanco not being available to start the season but at least according to this there would be no consideration for ‘this guy is on fire’. Does that do enough to explain why no Osuna in a few so far?
Factor 3 – The Locks
There appear to be a few locks in the lineup, at least so far as we’ve seen. These are players that apparently don’t require the rest being pushed for lesser lights. Reynolds, Bell, and Frazier seem to be the only players who the Pirates plan to use on the daily. Newman and Moran are close but have found themselves out of the lineup once each. Out of those players Bell and Moran are the only players who have changed positions, 3 in Moran’s case.
Factor 4 – Evaluation
Phillip Evans and Cole Tucker probably fill this role the best. The Pirates are at the very least intrigued by Evans’ bat and rightfully so, he has showed himself capable of making an impact and plays a decent third base from what we’ve seen. Tucker had a couple hits last night but up until then he looked out of sorts. They’ve decided he’s going to get at bats playing in the outfield and that’s fine, but it has come at the expense of at bats for Osuna. This bleeds into factor 3 a bit, because Newman is ‘in the club’ if you will it means he won’t sit much (I bet this changes if he doesn’t turn it around at the plate) so there aren’t many at bats to be had at SS for Tucker. When Newman does sit, they want to use it as an opportunity to get Gonzalez in there.
Factor 5 – Traditional Matchups
This is the last one and oddly its more a factor Shelton seems to not regard highly. The Pirates have a ton of switch hitters relatively speaking and they also have enough players to never see Jarrod Dyson start against a lefty or Heredia start against a righty. We just saw this last night, right-handed starter with Tucker and Heredia in right and center respectively. This is just weird, Dyson for years has not hit lefty’s and Heredia has not hit righty’s, so play Tucker in right if you must, so be it, someone needs to explain why we’re seemingly purposefully doing the opposite of what past performance and statistics would lead you to in center.
Surely, we are early on to decide we know everything about Derek Shelton or his managerial style. In fact, he was asked about his style the other day and he straight up said he wasn’t sure he could say he had one yet. Smart answer, backed by the evidence we’ve had placed before us thus far.