Was Acta's Lineup Juggling Necessary?

Manny Acta came to Cleveland to be a baseball manager and ended up being a juggler. Injuries to key players forced Acta to plug players into unfamiliar spots in the batting order. Many of the players were unfamiliar, too, being called up from Triple-A Columbus to try and hold the fort. In many instances, they performed like F Troop instead of Gen. Patton's fighting forces. That's not Acta's fault.

"I don't believe in luck," Acta said. "But our eighth hitter never got hurt or anybody on the bench. It was from the leadoff to the fifth hitter."

At one point, the Indians' top four hitters in the order were hurt as Asdrubal Cabrera (broken arm), Grady Sizemore (knee surgery), Shin-Soo Choo (strained thumb) and Carlos Santana (knee surgery) were on the disabled list. Designated hitter Travis Hafner filled the cleanup spot or No. 5 hole more frequently than his past two injury-filled seasons, but still wasn't the fearsome slugger of four years ago.

Sizemore was moved down to No. 2 and Cabrera elevated one spot to leadoff during spring training. Sizemore never got untracked, hitting only .213 before having season-ending knee surgery in May.

Cabrera, after coming back from his injury, went back into the No. 2 spot with rookies Trevor Crowe and Michael Brantley primarily handling the leadoff role.

Then trades took away three more players from the middle of the lineup when Russell Branyan was dealt to Seattle; Jhonny Peralta to Detroit; and Austin Kearns to the New York Yankees. Kearns, signed to be a backup, filled in wherever needed for Acta. He was the only Indians player to take his cuts from all nine spots in the lineup in 2010. Crowe was next, hitting at least once in every spot except No 3, including one at-bat at cleanup.

The injuries and deals led to confusion in the bottom third of the order, too. Players such as Jason Donald, Luis Valbuena, Jayson Nix and Crowe were used up top when they are better suited for the bottom part of the lineup. Acta used 15 men at No. 7, a total of 19 at No. 8 and the last spot was in constant upheaval with 20 guys getting at least one plate appearance at No. 9.

APPEARANCES IN BATTING ORDER IN 2010

PLAYER

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

Michael Brantley

286

11

-

1

-

-

-

-

27

Russell Branyan

-

-

164

107

61

79

12

2

3

Jordan Brown

-

-

-

11

35

43

2

-

1

Asdrubal Cabrera

158

265

-

-

-

-

-

1

1

Luke Carlin

-

178

468

-

-

-

-

-

-

Shin-Soo Choo

-

178

468

-

-

-

-

-

-

Trevor Crowe

269

6

-

1

9

67

63

42

22

Jason Donald

19

8

-

-

-

3

19

119

156

Shelley Duncan

1

-

3

90

40

59

31

25

10

Chris Gimenez

-

-

-

3

1

-

-

15

48

Mark Grudzielanek

16

29

-

-

-

26

34

13

1

Travis Hafner

-

-

29

322

66

36

1

1

7

Anderson Hernandez

9

23

-

-

1

3-

25

23

38

Austin Kearns

2

3

70

145

102

21

84

33

1

Matt LaPorta

-

-

-

9

81

130

177

27

1

Lou Marson

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

77

217

Andy Marte

-

-

-

5

7

33

84

52

7

Jayson Nix

-

88

1

-

120

43

36

47

28

Jhonny Peralta

-

-

4

45

263

226

71

6

-

Mike Redmond

-

-

-

-

-

-

4

30

29

Carlos Santana

-

-

152

39

-

-

-

-

1

Grady Sizemore

-

138

-

-

-

-

-

2

-

Drew Sutton

-

17

1

-

-

-

-

18

6

Luis Valbuena

5

4

-

1

3

13

111

154

19


Branyan's numbers for 52 games with Indians, 57 with Mariners
Hernandez's numbers for 22 games with Indians, 32 with Astros
Kearns numbers for 84 games with Indians, 36 with Yankees
Nix's numbers for 24 games with White Sox, 78 with Indians
Peralta numbers for 91 games with Indians, 57 with Tigers
Sutton's numbers for two games with Reds, 11 with Indians

Here's a look at how players did in individual spots in the order. These numbers only tell a fraction of the overall story, however. They do not reveal at what time of the season a player may have batted in a particular spot, nor which teams and pitchers he may have faced, nor the ballpark where it occured.

All of those factors contribute to the overall effect. Perhaps a player's numbers were skewed by hitting in a ballpark that was favorable to his style, against pitchers that he traditionally hits well, and at a time of year when he was seeing the ball well and in a "groove".

Conversely, the numbers could have been posted while a guy was battling through and injury and not at his best, or against pitchers that he traditionally struggles against and in a ballpark that is not conducive to his hitting style.

In many instances, the sample size is too small to deduce much of anything. In the case of two players, however, a case can be made that the confidence of both was affected by where they hit.

Crowe fared much better in the bottom third of the order than in the top two spots. Perhaps he pressed to get on base in front of big hitters Choo, Santana and Hafner, but it was evident that he was a more relaxed, patient and confident hitter when batting behind them.

Valbuena seemed to lose all confidence and really struggled when dropped down in the order. While he didn't exactly tear the cover off the ball in limited at-bats hitting first or second, he did post much better numbers than his pitiful mark in the lower third.

Nix also appeared the be a better hitter when given a little more responsibility at No. 6 or No. 7, but struggled at No. 8 and No. 9. Again, it doesn't say that perhaps he hit lower in the order against tougher right-handed pitchers and was moved up a bit against weaker lefties, which could account for the upsurge.

What it all shows is that Acta had to mix and match much more than he expected when he was hired a year ago. It wasn't something that he particularly liked to do, and a lot of fans won't quite understand that once the Indians fell out of contention, it was his job to try to get a look at as many players in as many roles both in the field and in the batting order, so that some assessment could be made going forward.

That's part of rebuilding, not a word the fans nor Acta enjoys hearing. Both he and the paying customers want to win more -- and the hope is that the trials endured in 2010 will help get more victories in 2011.

BATTING AVERAGE IN LINEUP SPOTS IN 2010

PLAYER

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

Brantley

.256

.091

-

.000

-

-

-

-

.308

Branyan

-

-

.245

.213

.296

.230

.100

.000

.000

Brown

-

-

-

.273

.273

.200

.000

-

.000

Cabrera

.278

.272

-

-

-

-

-

1.000

.000

Carlin

-

-

-

-

-

-

.250

-

.400

Choo

-

.284

.306

-

-

-

-

-

-

Crowe

.222

.200

-

1.000

.250

.219

.305

.333

.389

Donald

.158

.000

-

-

-

.333

.176

.224

.310

Duncan

.000

-

.333

.241

.132

.250

.267

.238

.333

Gimenez

-

-

-

.000

.000

-

-

.077

.238

Grudzielanek

.267

.231

-

-

-

.292

.294

.300

.000

Hafner

-

-

.222

.276

.296

.324

-

-

.167

Hernandez

.125

.136

-

-

.000

-

.292

.286

.212

Kearns

.000

.333

.305

.239

.279

.353

.213

.333

.000

LaPorta

-

-

-

.000

.271

.184

.229

.222

1.000

Marson

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

.130

.218

Marte

-

-

-

.000

.000

.219

.280

.222

.167

Nix

-

.207

.000

-

.225

.275

.273

.195

.174

Peralta

-

-

.000

.125

.224

.277

.338

.200

-

Redmond

-

-

-

-

-

-

.250

.133

.276

Santana

-

-

.282

.182

-

-

-

-

-

Sizemore

-

.213

-

-

-

-

-

.000

-

Sutton

-

.333

.000

-

-

-

-

.118

.500

Valbuena

.250

.250

-

.000

.667

.200

.155

.220

.067


Branyan's numbers for 52 games with Indians, 57 with Mariners
Hernandez's numbers for 22 games with Indians, 32 with Astros
Kearns numbers for 84 games with Indians, 36 with Yankees
Nix's numbers for 24 games with White Sox, 78 with Indians
Peralta numbers for 91 games with Indians, 57 with Tigers
Sutton's numbers for two games with Reds, 11 with Indians

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