The Angels have a flexible lineup. Many batters have strengths batting in different places in the lineup. Mike Scioscia loves to tinker with it all. Although statistical research shows that the difference between the best possible lineup and the worst (i.e. literally worst, pitchers batting cleanup worst) is only 5 wins. But there is little that excites those of us sitting on the sidelines during Spring more than fiddling with the lineups. Here is a preview of batting spots and the Angels most likely to take them.
LEADOFF: Based on Mike Scioscia's proclivities, this spot is Erick Aybar's to lose. Peter Bourjos would be the most exciting candidate here. Mike Trout will likely start the season in AAA but he seems a natural here as well. Trout and Bourjos are excellent baserunners and good for double-figure infield single and bunt base-hit totals year in and year out. Last year i wanted badly to see Bobby Abreu in this spot considering his on-base skills and his intelligent baserunning. This season I don't know that I really want to see "Booby" at all. And yet, Scioscia has misguidedly seen Aybar as a table-setter for too long to expect our manager not to hand this slot to our SS on a silver platter.
BATTING SECOND: I believe Howie Kendrick gave the Angels a substantial hometown discount in his recently completed four year contract extension for one reason. The chance to bat ahead of The Albert will give Howie many more of the fat fastball pitches he has been dreaming about, pitches that will be required for him to ever remove the "Future" adjective of "Batting Champion" that has been A-PRIORI applied to him.
BATTING THIRD: Albert Pujols batting third will yield the greatest offensive player of his generation at least two dozen more Plate Appearances if not more. You want your best hitter up the most number of times with the most chances to score runs - this correlates to batting Albert third, not fourth, despite Pujols' legendary power.
CLEANUP: As simple as two and three are, fourth is the most complex, and the most dependent on factors such as health and splits. My Scioscia-radar says that Mike may give this to Vernon Wells if Kendrys Morales is not in tip-top shape. Torii Hunter and Mark Trumbo are options here, especially against left-handed pitching. A healthy K-Mo, though, would seal up the fourth spot at least against righties. Perhaps an April of Wells batting here as a "use it or lose it" mid-contract audition to even stay on the team is worth it to all of us fans.
FIFTH: As above so below. If Kendry(s) is hitting hot from the right side, slot him in here on occasion with Trumbo, Hunter or Wells in the power spot. This is most likely the domain of Torii, whose new agility and absence of 15 pounds of last season's blubber should produce another ageless season. Wells does have to bat somewhere. The lack of lefhanded bats in the lineup could see a hot Hank Conger batting here against a righty who yields airballs.
SIXTH: If he is starting at 3B, Alberto Callaspo will be switch-hitting in this spot, as will the king of klutch, Maicer Izturis. In games that feature Mark Trumbo in the lineup, The ROY runnerup could conceivably bat here, along with any of the 4/5 discussion leftovers.
SEVENTH /EIGHTH: This is where any of our esteemed Catchers will bat from. Bobby Wilson, King Conger and Chris Iannetta will share and swap the 7 and the 8 with Callaspo and the Mice Man, fourth outfielders like Ryan Langerhans and Kole Calhoun as well as any other infielders up from AAA like Jorge Cantu. The legacy of Robb Quinlan hangs in the balance.
NINTH: The loser of the leadoff race will be here, be it Aybar or Bourjos. A cameo by Alexi Amarista or even Jean Segura for a small stretch is inevitable this season.
How do YOU see the 2012 Angels lineup shaping up?