Andrew Stetka: Orioles' lineup shuffle comes without true leadoff hitter

It'd be really easy to get all fired up and stomp my foot at Ubaldo Jimenez to start this week. There are a ton of questions as to what the Orioles do with him going forward and how they deal with his struggles. Instead, I'm going to go a different route.

I've been really interested in what Buck Showalter is doing with his lineup over the last few days. He's mixed things up and thrown guys around in a way that made me scratch my head once the lineup was posted. He's been handed a lineup full of great potential, but maybe it hasn't been realized quite yet.

Hitting Adam Jones leadoff simply looks strange, and having Hyun Soo Kim make starts hitting second seems even odder. It's very unconventional, but perhaps in a good way. After setting a major league record for strikeouts in a three-game series in Houston last week, maybe change was necessary. We all knew the O's would have a lineup full of players who could hit a ton of home runs and swing and miss a lot. So far, that's proving true. The Birds are top five in homers and top 10 in strikeouts in the major leagues.

The question I continue to ask myself, and others, is how much does the order of the lineup really matter? There's obviously some impact on a game. Otherwise, managers across baseball would simply toss names into a hat before each game and create their batting order that way. I've always been of the mindset that you want your best hitters near the top of the order, that way they have a better chance to get the most at-bats during a game. Sounds simple.

Jones doesn't get on base at a decent enough clip to present a real threat as a "traditional" leadoff hitter. He doesn't have the "batter's eye" most would look for. He doesn't work the count and drive up pitchers' workload either. Not to mention the fact that he's struggled mightily this season, aside from a week-long stretch a while back where he couldn't miss.

Manny Machado would appear on the surface to be the team's "best" option as a leadoff hitter, but for a guy that drives the ball and hits so many homers, you'd rather have better players hitting in front of him to potentially drive in. I think it's pretty obvious that Machado is best suited as the team's two or three hitter, but the lack of a true leadoff guy presents that issue.

Perhaps the most interesting element to Showalter's lineup tinkering over the last few days has been Kim. He's started five straight games and was bumped up to that two spot over the last few. Way back in December when Kim was signed, he was viewed as the team's starting left fielder and leadoff hitter. Some experts lauded his ability to get on base, something that would translate well to the role. But prior to this stretch of games, Kim had only received a handful of starts. He's certainly producing some numbers when he does play. There's virtually no power to be seen, despite the fact that he hit his first big league home run yesterday, but he's getting on base at a decent clip thus far.

Kim's at-bats don't necessarily have to come at the expense of Joey Rickard, either. Even though that's the logical move, there are two corner outfield spots. Nolan Reimold is in the mix as well, but Mark Trumbo can play in the designated hitter's role as we've seen in recent games as well. Rickard got off to a blistering start to the season, but has seriously slowed down and should indeed give way a bit to hotter bats.

I'm extremely interested to see what Showalter does with the lineup going forward. Mixing things up in the middle of the order certainly does give him the ability to break up the big strikeout bats, which can be a drag when the ball isn't flying out of the yard. Sliding guys around based on how they are performing is going to be necessary, especially when the bats aren't as red hot as they can be. Deep down, much of the way the lineup stacks together goes back to the underlying issue that the Orioles didn't go out and acquire a true leadoff hitter this offseason. For now, they'll have to make do with what they have.

Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O's appear here as part of's continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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