Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Worst Move of the Season Nominee: Incessant Lineup Changes

If the 2009 Chicago Cubs seemed frustratingly inconsistent (or even consistently erratic) that could be because they were never the same team twice. Okay, that's a lie. In 161 games (the final game against the Pirates was cancelled) the Cubs fielded an unoriginal lineup 30 times. And that's without taking the starting pitcher into consideration.

Now, I love originality. I'm somewhat obsessive compulsive about it. I don't even like telling the same joke twice. Sometimes I'll think of something funny at home and will intentionally avoid saying it to anyone so I can include it on a blog or an email or a tweet or something. It's a problem, I know. I'm not working on it. The point is, I can't remember ever criticizing someone for being original. But this time (and for the sake of consistency, why don't I make it the first and only time) I'll make an exception.

Lou, what the hell? There were only 22 lineups you considered worth repeating. Of those, only 5 were used more than twice. Three different lineups were so magical as to warrant 4 appearances. None were used any more than that. A total of 131 completely distinct batting orders (again, that's not even counting the pitcher). Like me, Lou, you've clearly got issues. Mine are annoying. Yours may have lost your team a chance at the postseason.

I'll give Lou a bit of leniency, though. There were certainly a lot of nagging injuries to account for. A lot of underwhelming performance from hitters. But the sheer variance throughout every stretch of the season has more to do with a stubborn affinity for change than overall roster changes and DL stints.

More than a few Cub fans share my ire in seeing hot hitting players inexplicably pulled from the lineup. I've already expressed my rage at seeing Bradley and Fukudome shuffled from the spots in the order that favored their strengths (2 and 1, respectively). And I believe I recall a few fans here and there mention some disdain over Soriano's tenure as a leadoff man.
If you look through the different batting orders (which I have) it appears as though Lou was trying his hardest to avoid any repeats. Lou could have drawn names out of a hat and produced a more consistent lineup. But he just kept juggling, shuffling, switching, and experimenting. I can't imagine any big league player thriving under those conditions. The only consistent part of Lou's lineup cards in 2009 had to be the WTF? expressions on the Cubs' faces as they stared at it every day.

I didn't realize how scattered and random the batting order really was until today. But now that I know, I wonder if this trend collectively was the worst move of the season.

Bad move, Lou. Bad move. Was it the worst? You tell me.

Oh, and I'll award a signed photograph of all of Aaron Miles's home runs in 2009 to anyone who can correctly name any of the three batting orders (1-8) that were used 4 times each.

Other Nominees:


  1. I whole heartedly agree! I mean changing the lineup 112 times during a 161 game season is a recipe for disaster. Or is it?

    You see Lou didn't change the batting order 112 time THIS year. He changed it 112 times LAST year, and it led to 97 wins.

    I'm afraid you don't have much of a leg to stand on here. At least not SOLELY that number, because it can lead to good seasons as well.

    The reason the Cubs did badly this year was because they played badly this year. The reason they didn't end up worse is because they were in the NL Central - membership has its priveledges.


  2. Thanks for the 2008 numbers. Much appreciated. But last time I checked 112 < 131. Last year's batting order carousel was a little too busy for my liking. 131 is insane.

    You're right, the Cubs did poorly because they played poorly. But I would contend that the wild inconsistency of the batting order could have been a big reason behind that.

    And you could even make the argument that the mad scientist approach to filling out the lineup card is what prevented the 2008 Cubs from breaking the century mark or even getting 1 win in the playoffs.

    But, alas, the battle for worst decision is fierce. If there were but one obvious option, this season would have been so much more palatable.

  3. Well not to muddle things up, but Lou didn't have much of a choice. With all of the injuries and playing young kids he had to experiment. With Soriano struggling you couldn't keep him in the lead-off spot. They desperately need a true lead-off man.


Spill it.

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