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That crazy Twins lineup

Opening Day featured a lineup we weren’t used to seeing in recent memory. Will it actually stick?

Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

All during Spring Training, we were stuck dreaming on hypotheticals. Who’s going to be in the rotation? Who should be the DH? How is the lineup going to look during the season? Now that the Twins have played their first game, we got our first look at Paul Molitor’s lineup and it was quite a goofy one.

If I had shown you this as the Opening Day lineup against Royals lefthander Danny Duffy, you likely wouldn’t have batted an eye.

  1. Brian Dozier, 2B
  2. Joe Mauer, 1B
  3. Max Kepler, RF
  4. Miguel Sano, 3B
  5. Robbie Grossman, DH
  6. Jorge Polanco, SS
  7. Eddie Rosario, LF
  8. Jason Castro, C
  9. Byron Buxton, CF

Perhaps Mauer could have been batting third with Grossman second and Kepler fifth, but this wouldn’t have been too odd of a lineup. Instead, we were treated to this:

  1. Brian Dozier, 2B
  2. Robbie Grossman, DH
  3. Byron Buxton, CF
  4. Joe Mauer, 1B
  5. Miguel Sano, 3B
  6. Jason Castro, C
  7. Jorge Polanco, SS
  8. Max Kepler, RF
  9. Eddie Rosario, LF

Wow. Buxton hitting third was bold. Mauer hitting cleanup against a LHP was absurd. Castro ahead of Polanco was questionable, and Kepler and Rosario (despite being lefties themselves) rounding out the bottom of the order was an odd choice. Nonetheless, the game is not played on paper but rather on a field and the Twins pulled out a 7-1 Opening Day win against the Royals.

Admittedly, this lineup probably should have had an asterisk next to it. Though these are likely the best position players currently on the roster, it certainly didn’t contain the best hitters against a lefthanded pitcher. Mauer has gotten progressively worse against southpaws over the past few years (.667 OPS since his concussion), while Castro has always been bad against them (career .542 OPS). Meanwhile Eduardo Escobar (.747 OPS in his career vs. LHP) and backup catcher Chris Gimenez (.760 career OPS vs. LHP) would most certainly be in the lineup against the majority of lefthanded starters in the place of Mauer and Castro. Though the Twins don’t really have a true first baseman on the roster behind Mauer, it would make the most sense to sub in Escobar and Gimenez whenever possible.

The comment about the asterisk above was that this was a lineup for Opening Day. It’s not glamorous to put 34-year old Gimenez in the starting lineup when Castro was the big signing of the offseason, and despite the complaints from your obnoxious coworker, Mauer is still the face of the franchise. It was basically a given that they would be in the lineup on the first day no matter what, but that doesn’t mean that this will always be the case.

The second point I have is one that Paul Molitor gave after the Opening Day victory. He mentioned that the goal was to get as many runners on base ahead of Sano so he could drive them in. With the exception of Buxton, the other three hitters were the best on last season’s roster. We could have argued that Polanco belonged up near the top instead of Buxton, but it mostly demonstrated that Molitor was attempting to get the best hitters the most at-bats over the course of the season.

With Ian Kennedy facing the Twins this afternoon, I’m sure a new lineup will debut. Mauer might still be hitting cleanup, which would make far more sense against the righthanded Kennedy. Rosario or Kepler might replace Grossman in the second hole. Heck, Dozier might even get moved out of his favorite leadoff spot. All we can tell is that there already appears that more thought might be given to this year’s lineups than what we had seen in the past.