MLB Week in Review (May 27-June 2)

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The MLB is one of the most unique leagues in the world in that there are so many different players with so many different skillsets.

It leads to any number of strategies and team makeups that make almost every team different.

With power hitters, pure hitters, speedy base runners, defensive specialists, power pitchers, junk pitchers, and lefty specialists every team can be any combination of all of them and they can all be effective.

There is, of course, the classic line-up that has been around for a long time and continues to be effective.

That line-up includes a good batter with speed on the bases hitting leadoff, a good average hitter batting second, two power hitters at three and four, and the lesser hitters at the end of the line-up.

That is the classic batting line-up and one that has worked for years in the league.

The problem is that not every team has those players that can fill out each role while others have more of one type of batter than the other.

Not to mention that in an era when managers are always trying to find ways to get more runs they aren’t as willing to give up at the bottom of the line-up.

Traditionally the ninth batter is filled out by the worst batter on the team or in the NL the batter.

Teams are always looking to adjust those roles and trying to find runs at the bottom of their line-up.

They are also looking to the top of the line-up to change things around as there are few perfect lead-off hitters left in the league.

The old style requires a batter that can hit for average and get on base in order to wreak havoc on the bases by stealing or threatening to steal.

In this day and age steals are no longer considered a big deal and having that prototypical lead-off hitter isn’t necessarily a need.

This year a few teams have begun experimenting with the lead-off hitter and others are beginning to find someone that doesn’t fit the mould but is playing too well to move them.

In Toronto, the Blue Jays were struggling to find their offensive numbers that carried them to the postseason last year.

That is when the leadership group of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Troy Tulowitzki walked into manager John Gibbons’ office and asked that he change the line-up.

Particularly they asked that he put Bautista in the lead-off spot moving him from his consistent third spot.

Typically Bautista, who is one of the top power hitters in baseball, should be batting at the heart of the line-up.

That way he has more opportunity to hit with batters on base and can clear the bases with a home run to drive in more

The switch was made though and Bautista began hitting lead-off for the Jays.

It turned out to be a great idea as they have played better since the move and Bautista is getting more chances to actually hit the ball.

This season he has been getting a steady stream of balls as pitchers kept the ball away from his sweet spot.

Now in the leadoff they have to pitch to him because Donaldson comes up after him and has been great with runners on.

The move has worked despite the fact that Bautista is far from a typical lead-off hitter.

Staying in the east the Boston Red Sox had their typical lead-off hitter in Mookie Betts who had a solid bat and the speed to steal if he needed to.

This week though Betts has been on a different level as he has begun hitting home runs in the lead-off spot.

In fact, Betts broke a record with five home runs in two games after hitting three one Tuesday and two on Wednesday.

It is not what the Red Sox were looking for from a lead-off but it is earning runs and that is good enough to justify keeping him there.

Sometimes throwing out convention can work perfectly for a team and in both of these cases that is the case.

The Red Sox and Blue Jays are not seeing the usual lead-off hitter production but it doesn’t matter because both are producing.

That is baseball, after all, finding a line-up that works and running with it until it stops working.

As long as both Bautista and Betts continue hitting they will remain where they are as in baseball you never change something that is working.

Extra Innings
(More on this week in baseball)

An Olympic Return
The IOC has voted to bring baseball and softball back to the Olympics and aside from an official vote closer to the Rio Games the two sports should be set to return in 2020 along with a host of other sports that were involved in the same vote

Bautista Staying Put?
The Blue Jays are focusing on the season at hand but when the season is done both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista will be free agents but in an interview this week it seems Bautista really wants to stay saying he would be “stupid” to leave

Bonds’ Mistakes
Barry Bonds remains one of the most polarising figures when it comes to the Baseball Hall of Fame and there are a few reasons for that but one was his relationship with the media which he now admits was a mistake during his career

Grilli to Toronto
The Blue Jays are looking for some help in a shaky bullpen and they are beginning to make moves when they traded a prospect and cash to the Atlanta Braves for Jason Grilli who hopes to turn things around in Toronto


Key Series:
Los Angeles Dodgers 2-1 New York Mets
– The west beat the east in this coastal battle as the Dodgers took two games from the Mets as they continued to keep pace with the Giants in the west and the Mets fell back of the Nationals in the east

Kansas City Royals 3-0 Chicago White Sox
– The White Sox had ruled the central division all year but it was time for the defending champs to take over as the Royals swept the White Sox to take over the top spot in the central as they hope to stay there all season

Toronto Blue Jays 3-0 New York Yankees
– The Blue Jays have struggled to regain the magic of last season but they are beginning to find their way and although it took two months they got their first series sweep when the offence overpowered the Yankees for three wins

Chicago Cubs 2-1 Los Angeles Dodgers
– As one of the best teams in the league, the Cubs have a target on their back and the Dodgers were aiming at that target as they

Upcoming Series:
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Chicago Cubs [June 3-5]
– They were the two most hyped teams in the off-season as the rebuild in Arizona and the momentum in Chicago had many expecting big things but they have gone opposite ways as the D-Backs hope to start to meet expectations and the Cubs look to continue meeting expectations

Seattle Mariners vs. Texas Rangers [June 3-5]
– The Mariners took over the west late in May and will head into Texas hoping to extend their lead in the division while the Rangers are hoping to take back the division lead they had for the first month and a half of the season

Los Angeles Angels vs. New York Yankees [June 6-9]
– The two biggest cities in the USA face-off as the Angels will travel to the east coast to take on the Yankees who are trying to gain some of their momentum back after they were halted by the Blue Jays in two straight series

Washington Nationals vs. Chicago White Sox [June 7-9]
– After losing out on the division lead the White Sox are looking to get back and prove they are one of the best teams while they take on another great team in the Nationals who hope to extend their eastern division lead

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