Technically, Ozzie Guillen did give an explanation as to why the worst hitter in baseball has been batting cleanup lately. But it wasn't a good one.
“Dayan Viciedo is not a cleanup hitter right now,” said Guillen, straightfaced. “Let the boys with more experience, more salary handle that.” -- CSNChicago, Aug. 30
“He swung the bat pretty good in the dugout, better than at the plate. He was connecting very hard,” Guillen said. -- CSNChicago, Aug. 31
Both of those quotes are in reference to Alex Rios. The first is Guillen's explanation as to why Viciedo isn't hitting cleanup instead of Rios, the second is in reference to Rios' dugout Wednesday outburst that saw him take a few hacks at the bat rack.
There's so much wrong with both of them.
I understand Guillen's desire to protect Viciedo in the lineup. That makes at least a little bit of sense. But to not put Alejandro De Aza -- who, for some similarly inexplicable reason, didn't start Wednesday -- Alexei Ramirez, hell, even Brent Lillibridge instead of Rios in the cleanup spot is a preposterous.
Rios is the worst hitter in baseball. Worse than Adam Dunn, worse than Brent Morel, worse than a whole slew of guys you don't want to hear about. And that Guillen is cognizant of Rios' ineptitute -- as shown by the second quote -- makes his decision to bat Rios fourth in his last nine starts even more ridiculous.
Sure, the White Sox are 6-3 when Rios starts and bats cleanup over those nine games. But in those nine games, Rios is 10-41 with no walks and seven strikeouts.
Guillen did the right thing when he removed Dunn not only from the cleanup spot but also from the lineup completely. But he's done the completely wrong thing by replacing Dunn with Rios in the lineup.\
Usually, my arguments with Guillen's lineup construction revolve around a point of contention I have with most other baseball managers, and that's wasting the No. 2 spot on a player who can "do the little things," i.e. not hit very well, but can bunt and hit the ball to the right side to advance a runner.
This is a completely different animal. No sane manager in baseball would bat his worst hitter, the worst hitter in the game, fourth when they're trying to close a five, now six-game deficit. Having a cleanup hitter who can hit isn't a market inefficiency like a good No. 2 hitter. Having a cleanup hitter who can't hit is, instead, generally a recipe for disaster.
That disaster has yet to hit, but if the Sox want to start off their crucial series with Detroit with a big win over presumptive Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, Rios won't be hitting fourth.
One move I won't sharply criticize Guillen for is his decision to pinch-hit Dunn for Lillibridge in Wednesday's game. It was the baseball equivalent this classic scene from the Simpsons:
Krusty's accountant: Let me get this straight. You took all the money you made franchising your name and bet it against the Harlem Globetrotters?
Krusty: I thought the Generals were due!
Maybe it's not the impossible odds of that, but the odds were still very slim. But the reward -- a game-tying three-run homer -- could've been huge.
The better example, I guess, would be to hit on 20 in a game of blackjack. But that's less funny.
Did it work out? Of course not -- Nathan blew a couple of high fastballs by Dunn, who hasn't had a chance to hit that pitch all year. He had one good pitch to hit, a center-cut fastball, that he fouled back to the screen. Once that pitch wasn't clobbered for a homer, the at-bat was basically over.
I'm not saying I like the move, but I at least somewhat respect it. Had it worked, and had the legendary Bill Raftery been announcing the game, it would've been "MAJOR! ONIONS!"
So, discussion topic: did you hate the Lillibridge-for-Dunn swap? Was it actually worse than batting Rios cleanup? I'm curious if I'm the only one who isn't armed with a pitchfork and/or torch over the Dunn pinch-hitting business.