When it comes to constructing the White Sox lineup, Robin Ventura uses a number of resources at his disposal, including analytics.
The White Sox manager was asked before Thursday’s game how he determines what order to write on the lineup card on a daily basis. The short answer -- there’s a lot of conversation is involved in the process.
On Thursday, Ventura sat Brett Lawrie for the first time in 41 games this season and dropped Jimmy Rollins from the second spot to sixth in the order. Carlos Sanchez is batting second and starting at second base.
“I have the last call, but we talk about it a lot,” Ventura said. “If you see something that maybe I don't, I think that's part of having a staff. You're talking with Rickey (Renteria), you're talking with Joe (McEwing), you're talking with Trick (Todd Steverson), everybody. Even (Don Cooper), why not?”
With Lawrie out, Ventura said he batted Rollins sixth Thursday to give the lineup more veteran presence in the middle. In dropping Rollins down from the No. 2 spot, Ventura likely satisfied a number of fans who prefer to see another hitter in that position. The team’s No. 2 hitters have combined for a .677 OPS this season, which ranks only ahead of the eighth and ninth spots in the White Sox lineup in OPS-plus, according to baseball-reference.com.
The White Sox, who are 24-16, have averaged 4.4 runs per game this season, including 5.5 a contest over their last 20. Last season, the White Sox averaged 3.84 runs per game.
Ventura has previously stated that he prefers to have Jose Abreu in the third spot because he likes how it extends the team’s lineup. He can’t bat Melky Cabrera second because he’s the only left-handed bat suitable for the middle of the team’s lineup, which would be loaded with right-handers were Cabrera not there to break it up.
One player often suggested by fans is Lawrie, who still has a .777 OPS despite a recent slow down. Ventura was asked what the lineup might look like if Lawrie hit second. While it has been considered, Ventura hasn’t felt the urge to yet try it out.
“You always look at lineup changes and what would happen with guys in different spots,” Ventura said. “When they're going good it always looks good to move guys up. You've seen it in the past where we move guys into that two-hole and it doesn't necessarily work. It changes maybe their approach or what the guys doing. It doesn't always work like, ‘If the guy's hot you just throw him there and it continues.’ But yeah, we play with it all the time.”
That includes occasional input from Cooper -- “Absolutely, with how he'd pitch somebody, just different things like that, maybe an approach another team would have that he would see,” Ventura said -- as well as analytical data. Ventura recently cited illness and numbers as reasons Rollins was out of the lineup -- “the computer got him,” he said.
“It's in our lives every day, with how you deal with who's playing, where you position guys, all those things,” Ventura said. “There is a little bit of everything that you put into it so we do adjust if we see it. If a guy's swinging a certain way, we're able to adjust to it.”