Odd Man Out

by Rich

There are a lot of things that could impact Game 3 of the World Series tonight.

Josh Fogg has been a horse so far in the playoffs, and also seemed to make every big start during the Rockies’ improbable run to close out the regular season. If ever there was a “stopper” Colorado could turn to down 0-2 with a realistic hope of putting them back in this series, it’s Fogg.

On the other side, there’s the $100-million-dollar-question-mark that is Dice-K. He may throw 8 shutout innings, or he may get pounded for 7 in 2.1 innings. Neither would surprise me all that much.

Additionally, the outfield dimensions in Coors Field are, like, a square mile bigger than Fenway. Ellsbury has a lot of range in center, but J.D. Drew is sort of an unknown in right field. And let’s face it, Manny will probably think that he’s in the parking lot.

But has any of this been mentioned? Not really. Apparently the only thing that could have any impact on this game is Terry Francona’s decision to sit Kevin Youkilis. It seems a little silly to me how much is being made of this decision. Here are the lifetime stats against Josh Fogg for the three guys concerned:

David Ortiz: 3/6, 0 XBH
Mike Lowell: 6/16, 1 double, 1 HR
Kevin Youkilis: 2/3, 1 double

As you can see, there’s not a whole lot of history there. Lowell’s hitting .375 off of Fogg, mainly from his days in Dade County with the Marlins. Youk and Papi have had decent success against him also, but also have fewer than 10 AB’s combined against him. Sample sizes that small tell you very little.

The bottom line is that Terry Francona is doing what he sees as best for the club, and it’s sort of hard to argue with him. And really, what are his alternatives? He could:

A) Play Ortiz and Lowell, and sit Youkilis

This makes sense, and it’s what he’s decided to do, at least for Game 3. Give Ortiz at least three at-bats, bring Youkilis in as a defensive replacement/pinch hitter, and see what happens. If Papi’s knee can’t hold up to playing six or seven innings in the field, then obviously he would come off the bench in Game 4.

B) Sit Ortiz, play Lowell and Youkilis.

This is the best option defensively, and it probably wouldn’t hurt Boston too much from an offensive standpoint either. Youkilis is the only full-time first baseman in the game not to commit an error this season, and Lowell is only the best-fielding third baseman ever. The problem with this is that you simply can’t bench David Ortiz in the World Series. The guy is the heart and soul of that franchise; if getting his bat in the lineup means 2 games of subpar defense at first? So be it.

C) Sit Lowell, play Youkilis at 3rd and Ortiz at first.

I heard this one suggested a couple of times, and…it’s just not that smart. Youkilis is a good defensive first baseman, but he’s not nearly as good at the hot corner. This arrangement would not only be benching the guy with the highest career fielding percentage ever at third, but it’d be doing so for a minimal offensive upgrade:

Youkilis: .288/.390/.453 with 16 homers, 83 RBI
Lowell: .324/.378/.501 with 21 homers, 120 RBI

Yeah, benching Lowell for Youk would be a great idea, if you’re a Rockies fan.

D) Play all three (Lowell at third, Ortiz at first, Youkilis in right field, bench J.D. Drew)

This is just a bad idea. I know that hating on Drew is the trendiest thing since Ugg boots, but he’s hit pretty well lately. Not to mention the fact that playing in a huge outfield with Manny, a rookie in center, and a corner infielder in right is probably not a good approach to take to your outfield defense.

With all that being said, I can’t find any reason to second-guess Tito for this decision. Besides, no matter who you have to sit, isn’t the bigger “decision” going to be whether or not the Rockies decide to throw the ball over the plate tonight?