Idea: In road games against right-handed pitchers, as the Dodgers have today in their National League Division Series opener at Atlanta against Kris Medlen, start Andre Ethier and bat him leadoff. If he gets on, pinch-run with Dee Gordon. In either case, substitute Skip Schumaker in center field in the bottom of the first.
It guarantees Ethier will get his at-bat against a righty and not a lefty, against which he’s at a much greater disadvantage. In fact, Ethier is the Dodgers’ top on-base percentage man against right-handed pitching – what better way to begin a game.
It guarantees Gordon’s spot on the roster is not wasted in this game. Yes, it’s at the cost of perhaps using him to pinch-run for Adrian Gonzalez in a crucial late-inning situation, but only if you know that you’ve already gotten the opportunity to use Gordon. And runs in the first are as crucial as runs in the ninth.
Starting Ethier also basically puts Schumaker 10th in the batting order, which is pretty nifty. That’s not a slam against Schumaker, who might well become one of those unsung postseason heroes you always need. But it’s a good place to begin.
Below is the Dodgers’ official NLDS roster, announced this morning. Chris Capuano made it as the 11th pitcher, while Gordon and Scott Van Slyke were chosen over Jerry Hairston Jr., as was to be expected.
Hairston becomes the rare player who spent the entire season on the active roster – no trips to the disabled list – without making the playoff roster. However, if any Dodger suffers a series-ending injury, the team is allowed to replace him.
Starting pitchers (4): Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Ricky Nolasco
Relief pitchers (11): Kenley Jansen, Brian Wilson, Paco Rodriguez, Ronald Belisario, J.P. Howell, Chris Withrow, Chris Capuano
Catchers (2): A.J. Ellis, Tim Federowicz
Infielders (7): Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Ellis, Hanley Ramirez, Juan Uribe, Nick Punto, Michael Young, Dee Gordon
Outfielders (5): Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Skip Schumaker, Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke
Update: As J.T. Dutch points out on Twitter, the Dodgers could simply just use Schumaker to pinch-run for Ethier if he reached base in the first inning under my plan.