What makes a good lineup – a balance of speed with catalysts at the top and bottom of the order mixed with power in the middle? Normal convention would say that is true. Leadoff hitters, however, aren't the same in this era of baseball. Instead, the lineups that can find tough outs throughout have a leg up.
The most clutch lineup in all of baseball, this team has a balance of speed and power that allows them to push runs across in multiple ways. If B.J. Upton every realizes his potential and Carlos Pena stays close to his career marks, the Rays will be even more dangerous. They have more speed than any team and know how to use it, pushing pitchers to make pitches or pay.
It's hard to find a hole in this lineup, even with the slow starts of several players. They don't have a conventional leadoff man, but Derek Jeter is as clutch as they come. The three through six hitters can turn a game quickly, and the latter half of the order has balance. This is a team that works the count, reaches base and knows how to hit with runners in scoring position.
A terror for opposing starters, the Twins masterfully work counts into their favor and take advantage of pitcher mistakes. Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau are about as good a threesome in the middle of the order as one could ask for.
The loss of Jimmy Rollins stings, especially his speed element, but there are plenty of bats throughout that can change the game with a swing with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth leading the charge. And this is a team that heats up as the summer months hit – scary.
2. Chicago Cubs
Starlin Castro adds another potent bat to a lineup that is consistently on base. If Aramis Ramirez can return to form, few teams can compete with the eight men in this lineup. They do lack speed and rely on the long ball a bit too much. Castro will help in that department.
The young hitters on this squad are maturing at an alarming rate. Andre Ethier has become a terror – and this occurred without Manny Ramirez in the lineup. Now Ethier may hit the DL while Ramirez is back. With Matt Kemp, they have three legitimate power threats and plenty of doubles hitters and speed to push the pace on the opposition.
A lineup with power that can bridge the gap and turn a loss into a win with one swing is vital in today's game. These teams are left wanting in the power arena. A lack of overall talent plays a significant part in the proceedings when locating the worst lineups in baseball.
When they dropped Jack Cust from the big league club, everyone wondered, why? Those same feelings are still apparent, obviously, as they have brought him back into the fold. This is a team that can't miss scoring opportunities. A club made for hitting the ball into the gaps, it takes more than one hit to manufacture a run. Also, Rajai Davis is their only true speed threat.
The worst hitting team in all of baseball with runners in scoring position, the White Sox score runs via the long ball or not at all. While they are amongst the league leaders in dingers, few are coming with men on base. Just three regulars are batting over .250.
Next to last in the American League in on-base percentage, the Mariners offer little power to make up for the lack of brawn. And without men on base, there are few opportunities for runs to be scored. Ichiro Suzuki can only do so much.
When the big boppers of Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence aren't hitting, this team has no chance of scoring runs. The trio is at the heart of every major play, as few others can consistently produce. And right now, no one is producing. They are last in the majors in on-base percentage.
Ryan Zimmerman is a talent and Adam Dunn will reach base, but is there anyone else that can come through on a regular basis? It is a team that needs to play small ball well and execute to get their runners into scoring position, hoping for someone to come through. That doesn't happen often enough.
This is a team that may not reside in the bottom three of long, as they possess some burgeoning talent. Andrew McCutchen is the real deal. Garrett Jones could be too. This is a team that is short on experience and will improve over time.