The Incredible Structure of the Lineup
It would have been very easy and smart to put Edwin Encarnacion as the number one reason the Indians will win the World Series this upcoming season, but that would leave a lot unsaid. In reality, Encarnacion is a fantastic, consistent hitter, but it is the way he fits in the Indians lineup that will make him deadly to pitchers.
In Toronto last season, while Encarnacion batted third and fourth, these four players batted right after him for most of the season (BA/BA with runners on base/BA with RISP for the 2016 season in parenthesis).
–Michael Saunders (.253/.255/.204)
–Troy Tulowitzki (.254/.248/.264)
–Russell Martin (.231/.252/.261)
–Jose Bautista (.234/.265/.290)
In the American League Championship Series against the Indians, Bautista and Tulowitzki were the two after Encarnacion. There is some power for these four men, but there is definitely a lack of consistent production.
Encarnacion was only intentionally walked three times last season, but he had a career-high 87 total walks. One had to wonder if teams were more willing to pitch around him knowing who the next batter was.
With the Indians Encarnacion will get pitches to hit because teams will not want to give Cleveland baserunners. Right now it looks like the lineup will resemble something like this:
With either Ramirez or Brantley batting right after Encarnacion, who do you pitch to? There is not even an answer. From 1-6 in the lineup, the team has ridiculous stats. Ramirez hit .355 with RISP last season. With men-on-base, it was still .346.
Brantley hit .385 with RISP in 2015 and .333 with men on. Even bumping up Encarnacion creates more opportunities as Lindor and Kipnis batted .301 and .296 with men on. Compared to the guys behind Encarnacion in Toronto, these numbers are astounding.
There is no way to pitch around Encarnacion in this lineup. Put men on for the Indians and they are going to score.