Chicago White Sox: Good lineups increase chances of successTim Healeyon June 7, 2022 at 9:30 pm

Not only has Tony La Russa changed the Chicago White Sox lineup constantly – I am not sure he’s used the same lineup more than once – but his tinkering has produced some lineups that are downright laughable.

Yet, this past Sunday, La Russa came up with a lineup that seemingly made sense, and what did the White Sox do? They scored six runs quickly. And did so against a very good team – the Tampa Bay Rays.

To be fair to La Russa, having a good lineup doesn’t necessarily mean the team will have a good day – he put out a lineup I liked against Toronto last week and the team lost. Players have to play well, no matter the batting order or defensive assignments.

And yes, the Sox have been beset by injuries. Yes, La Russa can defend his moves by pointing to matchups, and yes, La Russa has access to behind-the-scenes info us fans and bloggers don’t.

The Chicago White Sox are a struggling ball club, and one thing that has hurt – or at least not helped – is manager Tony La Russa’s penchant to mess with the lineups.

But too often, La Russa has sat players who were hitting well. Or put them too low in the lineup, thus reducing their number of at-bats. Or he’s put weak hitters too high. Leury Garcia should never lead off.

Last weekend, La Russa finally seemed to see the light. Danny Mendick had been swinging a hot bat, so he got to leadoff. Andrew Vaughn, who is batting near .300, followed. Struggling Yasmani Grandal was dropped down to sixth. Platoon catcher Reese McGuire batted eighth, and two other players who are struggling a bit – A..J. Pollock and Josh Harrison – also batted in the bottom third.

I might’ve switched Pollock and Grandal – Pollock has shown flashes of his old self this season, and has some pop in his bat – but otherwise, this lineup made sense, given that leadoff man Tim Anderson is hurt, and middle-of-the-order power bat Eloy Jimenez is still rehabbing an injury. Ultimately, Anderson will be leading off when those two return and Eloy will be somewhere between third and sixth. It also helps that call-up Jake Burger has shown some power.

The thing is, if even a fan like me can figure out a sensible lineup that accounts for injuries, shouldn’t the Hall of Fame manager be able to do so? And I haven’t even touched on the idea that players are said to prefer consistent lineups, in part because no Sox player has, as far as I know, been willing to criticize La Russa to the media when it comes to the constant changes.

To be clear, lineup inconsistency and baffling lineup choices aren’t the only reason, or even the main one, that a potential World Series contender is barely treading water a bit over a quarter of a way into the season. The offense is anemic, the defense is porous, and the pitching is inconsistent. And several key players have missed significant time.

The good news is that there is still time, especially given a weak division and expanded playoffs, for the White Sox to make a run. And Lance Lynn, along with Jimenez and Anderson, should be back sooner than later. Furthermore, pitcher Dallas Keuchel is no longer around to get battered by opposing offenses.

It sure would help, though, if the manager put whatever players he has available on any given day in the best possible position to succeed.

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