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Sizemore's Role Changing

            A wise man once said, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” The same can be said for a baseball lineup. Until, of course, it stops working.

            The Indians lineups of the past have featured stellar leadoff hitters, Kenny Lofton being my all-time favorite. Lofton’s absence left a hole not just in the outfield, but at the top of the lineup as well. For the past few years, Grady Sizemore has filled that space more than adequately. A three-time All Star and winner of two Gold Gloves, Sizemore has led by example. His speed (33 stolen bases in ’07) and .290 batting average in 2006 made him an obvious choice for the top of the lineup.

            That is, of course, except for the fact that he has hit more than 20 homeruns every year since 2005, topping out at 33 bombs last year. Someone who hits 33 homeruns in a season is typically in the middle of a lineup, where the chances of someone being on base for those homeruns is much greater. So why not move Sizemore to the middle of the lineup where his RBI totals would skyrocket? For years, Eric Wedge has told us a variation of that same mantra: If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

            Well guess what, Eric Wedge. It’s broken, and needs to be fixed.

            After Sunday afternoon’s loss to Tampa Bay, Sizemore’s average dipped to .220 on the season with an on-base percentage of just over .300. While the season is only six weeks young, leaving plenty of time for a turn-around, the place to let a hitter figure out his swing should not be at the top of the batting order.

It’s true Grady Sizemore has been a solid rock for this team for the past four years, and his accomplishments should be respected, it’s time to recognize his role may be changing. The team is no longer short on veterans, so some of the pressure to be a leader should be off Sizemore’s shoulders as a result. Lowering his place in the batting order to fifth or sixth could take off more of that pressure or even act as a motivator for Sizemore to stop swinging for the fences and concentrate on getting on base.

Of course, removing Sizemore from the top of the lineup raises the question of who to let leadoff. The position has not been available for awhile, so no major prospects are an obvious choice, but I’m willing to bet a few of the newest members of the Tribe would be willing to try their hand at the top of the lineup. As far as a tone-setter, Asdrubal Cabrera’s current on base percentage has approached .400 in recent weeks. Almost sounds like that of a leadoff hitter.

            As if any of us need reminding, the Indians are in last place in the American League Central and 11 games under .500. Although the team has always been able to find a new ways to lose, a solid offense always encourages better defense and better pitching. A lineup shake-up might just be the cure, and it should start from the top.