Terry Francona has dropped a few hints. Thinking about those, along with his spring training lineups, we can assume the top half of the order will look something like: Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, and Adrian Gonzalez. Tito has said he might sometimes flip the 2/3 hitters and the 4/5 hitters.
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs used the ideas from "The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball", by Tom Tango and Mitchel Lichtman, to see what the optimum Boston lineup would be. Cameron's article is behind ESPN's Insider paywall, but this is the lineup (with projected 2011 OPS):
I'm betting we do not see this lineup for even one game in 2011.Drew .835 Youkilis .887 Ortiz .872 Gonzalez .976 Pedroia .841 Crawford .850 Scutaro .722 Ellsbury .733 Saltalamacchia .690
Baseball Musings' David Pinto has been taking quick looks at each team's offense. He gets a probable batting order, plugs each player's OBP/SLG forecasts from Marcel the Monkey into his Lineup Analysis Tool, and gives us the results.
First, here are the probable lineups for Boston, New York, and Tampa Bay -- the top three run scoring teams in MLB last year (and the only clubs to top 800 runs):
Red Sox Yankees Rays Ellsbury Jeter Jaso Pedroia Granderson Damon Crawford Teixeira Longoria Gonzalez Rodriguez Ramirez Youkilis Cano Joyce Ortiz Swisher Zobrist Drew Posada Johnson Saltalamacchia Martin Upton Scutaro Gardner BrignacHere are the Runs per Game:
Red Sox Yankees Rays Probable lineup 5.35 5.25 5.15 Best lineup 5.39 5.30 5.25 Worst lineup 5.12 5.03 4.97 Regressed lineup 4.85 4.79 4.71I asked Pinto what "regressed lineup" means and he replied: "It's the best fit of the projected lineup onto how teams actually score during the season. Most teams tend to score less than the projected lineup, since that lineup suffers injuries and doesn't play every day."
The best Red Sox lineup -- Gonzalez, Youkilis, Ellsbury, Drew, Pedroia, Ortiz, Crawford, Saltalamacchia, Scutaro -- would score 0.04 runs per game more than Francona's probable lineup -- a difference of 6.5 runs over a 162-game schedule or an improvement of only two-thirds of one win.
Even using the absolute worst possible lineup -- Saltalamacchia, Ellsbury, Drew, Scutaro, Crawford, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Youkilis, Ortiz -- every single day would cost the Red Sox only 3.7 wins over Tito's probable lineup.
I'll still probably complain about some particular day's lineup, though.