Is now the time to drop Lee in the batting order?

Some fans are already asking if the Orioles should consider dropping Derrek Lee in the batting order. He has had every at-bat this year at the third spot in the lineup and is batting just .209 with one homer, two doubles and two RBI over 18 games.

Lee has certainly not been productive in that third spot. He has gone 13 consecutive games without an RBI and is 0-for-12 on the year batting with runners in scoring position with eight strikeouts. His double in the eighth inning on Thursday ended a run of eight straight games for him without even an extra-base hit.

His slugging percentage right now is .284 and his OPS is just .586. His career numbers in those categories are .496 and .862.

Some wonder if Lee has lost some bat speed. He discounted that theory in an interview before yesterday’s game was rained out.

Right now, I say it’s too soon to drop Lee down in the order. But the time to do it may not be that far away.

Lee is comfortable batting third. In his career, that has been the spot where he has batted most with 40 percent of his career plate appearances coming there. Coming in second for him is batting sixth in the order where he has had 26 percent of his career plate appearances.

He has batted fourth and fifth about 12 percent of the time.

Despite the very poor production, Lee should probably be given a few more chances batting third. But how long should Buck go with him there if he continues to struggle? When is the right time for a manager to make a move with a trusted veteran?

I don’t think Lee would bat an eye if Buck moved him down and maybe a change would be welcome for him.

Whether that happens could depend on many factors, including how the team is doing in the won-loss column and how others are hitting around Lee in that order. Nick Markakis is struggling now too and some think with Lee slumping behind him, that is hurting Markakis’ cause right now.

You know Buck has probably at least considered a change in batting spot for Lee. But when is the right time to make that move?

If you are going to tonight’s game: The Orioles are encouraging all fans to arrive early tonight. They have passed along this message for the fans -

Fans looking to purchase tickets for Saturday’s game against the Yankees are advised to arrive early. We are expecting a large walk-up crowd, and fans should allow themselves plenty of time. All points of sale will be open at Oriole Park; however, we are still anticipating a turnout that has the potential to create significant wait times. Whenever possible, fans should stop by the box office in the morning or early to mid afternoon to purchase their tickets. Fans arriving after 5 pm may experience long lines.

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