With the World Series moving to San Francisco for Game 3 on Friday, Kansas City manager Ned Yost will have to get out of his comfort zone. He’ll lose his designated hitter, which means he won’t be able to use the same lineup he has run out there 17 games in a row.
He’s also moving to a park that has that huge area to cover in right-center field, and that spells trouble for right fielder Norichika Aoki, who has played right field like a puppy chasing a rubber ball all postseason. With Aoki a defensive liability -- both by the defensive metrics and the eye test--– it’s time for Yost to give Jarrod Dyson his first start in more than a month in center field and slide Lorenzo Cain over to right field from the beginning.
That gives Yost the stellar defensive outfield he likes to go to late in the game anyway. In fact, he inserted Dyson into center in the sixth inning of Game 2 with the game tied. Plus, factor in that the Royals’ Game 3 and Game 4 starters, Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas, respectively, are both fly-ball pitchers, and the emphasis on stellar outfield defense is even more important.
The risk is that Dyson has had just 15 plate appearances since Sept. 20 (he’s 0-for-7 in the postseason), so he’s rusty at the plate. But it isn’t as if Aoki has been contributing anything on offense: He’s hitting .206/.282/.206 in the postseason. Dyson hit .274/.326/.327 against right-handers; so while he lacks power, he doesn’t project as an offensive zero. Plus you have his speed if he manages to get on base.
It’s the old Earl Weaver philosophy: Defense early and then offense late if you’re trailing. In fact, considering the strikeout rates of the Kansas City bullpen, defense is actually less important for the Royals later in the game because you get fewer balls put into play.
So what about the lineup? I’d move Alex Gordon, the team’s best hitter during the regular season, up to the No. 2 spot, which gets him more plate appearances and keeps the right-left-right thing going that Yost likes. And it makes it a little harder for Giants manager Bruce Bochy to play matchup with his bullpen. Here’s the lineup I’d use for Games 3 and 4 against right-handers Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong:
Alcides Escobar, SS
Alex Gordon, LF
Lorenzo Cain, RF
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Omar Infante, 2B
Jarrod Dyson, CF
In Game 5 against Madison Bumgarner, Yost needs to get more right-handed bats in the lineup. If he’s willing to sacrifice defense, he could and perhaps should insert Billy Butler at first base for Hosmer and even consider putting Josh Willingham in right field. I’m not sure about that move, and he could always go back to Aoki, who hits left-handers. He really should bench Moustakas considering his feeble .172 average against left-handers in the regular season, but Jayson Nix is the only backup infielder on the roster, and he’s not really an upgrade.
We’ll see if Yost says anything about his lineup when he meets with the media later on Thursday.