I don't like the way this relationship is heading.
Juan Pierre went more than a month between successful steals of second. He has four-non singles since June 1. And over the last two weeks, Ozzie Guillen has thrown a vastly underqualified hitter into the second spot for the sole purpose of allowing Pierre to get a head start via the hit-and-run.
Wait a second. Doesn't this mean that JUAN PIERRE IS A BASE-CLOGGER?
As counterintuitive as that sounds, it's effectively the case, because the lineup has been severely compromised by sudden (and hugely premature) entrenchment of Brent Morel as designated bat-handler, a.k.a. the No. 2 hitter.
Another Rotating DH has emerged before our eyes, because Morel hitting second is another concept that makes perfect sense until you think about it. Then it's completely nonsensical, and not even in the fun way (not to be confused with Funway). It's actually quite deleterious, and not only to the construction of the lineup, but the shape of the 25-man roster, too.
If I were wearing managerial pants, I'd like to think I'd put together a pros and cons list before making such a move. You'll find a dramatization of my imaginary decision-making process below the jump.
Morel is a contact hitter who often hits to the right side, which would be good for hit-and-runs.
Morel has a .269 OBP.
Up until two weeks ago, Guillen was quite conservative about his deployment, and rightfully so, considering he's a struggling rookie. Morel hasn't hit nearly well enough to abandon that course.
Gordon Beckham used to be the No. 2 hitter, but it was considered to be too much pressure, and so he was relegated to the back of the order.
Beckham had experienced prolonged success at the big-league level before he was bumped up in the order, two different times.
Beckham is a better hitter than Morel, and was a better prospect than Morel. And they're about equally proficient bunters, for whatever that's worth.
Morel replaced a superior option in Alexei Ramirez, who hit .302/.360/.426 in the No. 2 spot. He did ground into 12 double plays there, though.
Morel has grounded into two double plays in 11 starts. Extrapolate it to the amount of games Ramirez hit second, and that's nine double plays for Morel.
Is three fewer double plays over 50 games worth sacrificing 100 points of OBP for?
The OBPs of the top three hitters in Wednesday's loss: .324, .269, .302. Who, exactly, is Paul Konerko supposed to drive in?
And wait -- Ramirez hit seventh. Why marginalize him in order to elevate Morel?
And who's to say Morel will hit into fewer DPs, anyway? After all, Morel has the highest groundball rate on the team.
Wouldn't either guy hit into fewer double plays if the leadoff man could get to second base on his own more often than once every eight days? That seems like Ramirez is being punished for Pierre's transgressions. Morel could meet the same fate.
And doesn't this run the risk of making Morel more important to Guillen than he should be? Morel has options, he isn't performing like a big-leaguer yet, and the Sox need flexilibility until they could trade somebody without eating (too much) cash.
Do I consider using another page to continue? Or maybe I could draw a thick line underneath the pro, and then continue on the left-hand side, with some arrows to make sure I don't get confused later.
And you get the idea.
The thing is, I don't even want to single out Morel or Pierre in particular, because they aren't the biggest problems on the roster. If Adam Dunn and Alex Rios were hitting anything close to normal, the Sox could live with underwhelming seasons elsewhere.
But establishing Pierre and Morel as a 1-2 punch compounds problems, especially when they're backed by Dunn. Pierre isn't reaching base at a league-average rate, and he really struggles to get to second base by himself. Instead of putting him at the bottom of the order, Guillen instead opts to bring the worst hitter on the team ahead of their best hitters, in an attempt to recreate the visions of first-to-thirding dancing in his head.
Morel has his own problems right now, first and foremost his allergy to walks. I thought Chris Rongey summed it up the best -- he seems terrified of striking out looking, which is the kind of thing that will cause a guy to swing at ball four three times with the bases loaded, like he did on Wednesday. That's a flaw that will take a lot of time and patience to conquer, but by moving up to the second spot, Guillen is indirectly asking Morel to help veterans with their issues before he can cope with his own. That goes about as well as asking a tourist for directions, which might explain the White Sox's difficulties completing a trip around the bases.
These conversations keep coming back to Pierre because his manager is making no effort to cover for him. Stranger still, batting Morel behind Pierre practically opens the trenchcoat. By dubbing Pierre Leadoff-for-Life, his problems automatically become other people's problems, and if the second line of defense caves, then it's up to Konerko to solve everything. He's not so much the captain of the ship as he is the rudder, and neither can do much when there's no engine.