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Probablity and Popularity

Boy what a Tuesday, it's certainly been an eventful day so far, new lineup card, some stirring of the motivational potpourri, and some results.

To begin, let's look at that new lineup

Carl Crawford LF
Ben Zobrist SS
Rocco Baldelli CF
Ty Wigginton 1B
Greg Norton DH
Jorge Cantu 2B
Delmon Young RF
Akinori Iwamura 3B
Josh Paul/Dioner Navarro C

Personally I would switch Crawford and Rocco; however it's never a bad thing to get your best player more at-bats. The problem is however that Crawford has never produced in the same manner that Baldelli did in his very limited opportunity in the same situation. Crawford's career OPS in the leadoff position is .742, Baldelli's is 1.018, albeit that Crawford has nearly 80 times more ABs as the first batter.

Moving on to the second slot I absolutely love Zobrist batting in the 'on-base' situation. It's quite possible that Zobrist will be in a lot of bunting situations (with Crawford ideally at second after stealing or a double) setting up a better situation for Rocco, or Zobrist could work the count and be that grinder the Rays sorely need in their lineup. Nothing puts your team in a better position to find out about the opposing pitcher than making him throw a lot of pitches in the first few innings.

Wigginton in the fourth slot is the last `locked' lineup position, and we'll see if he can approach his .275 24 homerun season of the past. He's certainly not a bad choice in a spot in which he (should) have runners on base, posting a career .262 batting average with runners in scoring position.

The rest of the order is still up in the air, as it should since I can see Delmon Young leapfrogging to the fifth slot. As far as the results with the new lineup? A 7-0, one hit shutout of the Cleveland Indians.

The other firestorm today was this article by Marc Topkin, whom suggests that along with Seth McClung and B.J. Upton, the Human Lawn Statue Jorge Cantu, and fan favorite Jonny Gomes may be in trouble of being sent down to begin the season.

Topkin lists a few interesting possibilities in regards to this, including Upton at second base, Cantu designated hitting, or the least salivating to me; Greg Norton at first while Wigginton plays second.

I understand that it's not a popular idea to send Gomes or Cantu to the minors, nor Upton really, but you have to think this is the sort of bulletin board material that the four players may need to really kick-start the last week and a half of spring.

Personally I don't see Brendan Harris or Carlos Pena sticking (as Topkin also suggests) but if Upton or Cantu are indeed in Durham to begin the year, it would be a no brainer to keep the gritty Harris who can play nearly any position, minus centerfield, catching, and first base. Pena's bat hasn't surfaced and his glove doesn't make up for it, considering it's no where near that of the league's all-time greatest first fielding percentage, Travis Lee, who was pushing up daisies with his .224 batting average.

McClung as we've said is probably on the outs unless he really gets going, with no options remaining it's possible that he could end up with Florida, whom had some interest in him and Upton during the winter meetings but only put forth Ricky Nolasco.

Gomes and Cantu, both coming off of injury plagued campaigns should probably not have their springs held against them, however Jonny really needs to stop striking out, you're supposed to get batter as the spring exhibition progresses (see Akinori Iwamura, a four game hitting streak now) not regress. Same story for Cantu with a big add on, defensively he's not gotten any better, at least Gomes' is a heart and hustle serviceable outfielder, Cantu is the HLS.

So at the end of the day two motivational tactics seem to have been used, one to fire up the guys in the 5-9 slots to attempt and solidify and garner their batting slots, and the other to speak out to four guys who desperately need to come around for this team to take off.