Optimizing the Red Sox's lineup

The Red Sox's two big offseason acquistions make the middle of their lineup downright scary. US Presswire

The Boston Red Sox had a banner offseason, bringing in both Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to bolster their offense and their chances in the American League East. Now that they've added two more weapons to their lineup, Terry Francona has to figure out how to piece it all together -- given the numerous options the Red Sox have accumulated, that's easier said than done.

The projected starting nine for the Red Sox leans very heavily to the left-hand side. Gonzalez and Crawford have displaced Adrian Beltre and Mike Cameron from last year's starting lineup, giving the team two additional bats from the left side. Along with Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D. Drew and David Ortiz, the Red Sox will have five regulars who bat from the left side, and all of them are used to hitting near the top of the order. Balancing the order so that the lefties aren't all bunched together will be a challenge for Francona.

Complicating the process is the fact Crawford feels he "sucked at it" when asked to hit first, and while he's said that he will hit wherever Francona asks him to, he's admitted to being more comfortable in another spot in the order. Crawford's skills scream leadoff hitter, but that might not be a viable option if the Sox determine that his production could suffer in a spot he doesn't like to hit.

Putting the Red Sox lineup together isn't easy, but with the help of the research done by Tom Tango and Mitchel Lichtman in "The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball", we can make some suggestions on how the batting order should be arranged, based on their 2011 ZIPS projections: