Thursday, October 17, 2013

For Game 6, Mattingly should swap Puig and Ethier

As the Dodgers get ready for Game 6 in St. Louis, Don Mattingly stated today that he fully expects Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez to be in the lineup.  There's more confidence in Ethier than there is in Ramirez, and understandably so considering everything hurts for Ramirez right now.  But, with a couple of days off between the last pitch of Game 5 and the first pitch of Game 6, hopefully he'll be in better shape.

With that said, if I was Mattingly, I would make one lineup adjustment: hit Yasiel Puig in the #5 spot, swapping spots with Ethier, who would move to #6.

There's a few reasons for this.  One, Ethier is 3-for-17 in this series (.176 AVG).  I don't care if the Cardinals have right-handed Michael Wacha as the starter, Mattingly can't keep overvaluing what side of the mound the pitcher delivers from.  Right now Ethier is a singles hitter and nothing more.  It doesn't matter if the pitcher is right of left-handed, he's still pretty bad.

The second reason ties into the first one, in that Puig is a much better option to drive in runs from the middle of the order.  He was as bad as they came in the first two games, but after putting up an 0-for-10 spot, he's since gone 5-for-9 with a triple and two RBIs.  Give him a chance to get an extra-base hit against a really good pitcher.

The last reason has to do with Ramirez.  The last two games he's had to leave early because of his fractured ribs, to go along with various other ailments.  He even missed all of Game 2.  Say he needs to leave early in Game 6 as well and Nick Punto has to take his spot in the #3 hole.  Then say the Dodgers are down by at least one in the ninth.  Whom would you rather have up with two outs: Puig or Ethier?  I don't care how many strikeouts Puig gets, one swing from him can make a heck of a lot more difference than Ethier.

Mattingly has used basically the same lineup during both rounds in the playoffs, with the only real difference where Puig has hit.  As the Tigers and Red Sox have shown, making some changes can be a positive thing.  Make the heart of the order Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Puig, and that strikes much more fear in the Cardinals than Ethier hitting behind A-Gon.

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