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Crew set to mix and match lineup again in '18

Counsell will utilize situational matchups based on opponent
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell enjoys nit-picking of daily batting orders approximately as much as he enjoys root canals. He considers such conversations mostly a waste of time, perhaps not surprising since he started Major League games at every lineup position but cleanup, including at least 130 starts in four different spots.

Counsell used 123 different combinations of players in the top eight spots last season. His most common lineup -- Jonathan Villar, Eric Thames, Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw, Domingo Santana, Manny Pina, Keon Broxton, Orlando Arcia -- was used all of six times in 162 games. That diversity reflects Counsell's theory of a "position-player group" as opposed to starters versus bench players.

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell enjoys nit-picking of daily batting orders approximately as much as he enjoys root canals. He considers such conversations mostly a waste of time, perhaps not surprising since he started Major League games at every lineup position but cleanup, including at least 130 starts in four different spots.

Counsell used 123 different combinations of players in the top eight spots last season. His most common lineup -- Jonathan Villar, Eric Thames, Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw, Domingo Santana, Manny Pina, Keon Broxton, Orlando Arcia -- was used all of six times in 162 games. That diversity reflects Counsell's theory of a "position-player group" as opposed to starters versus bench players.

"Best-case scenario, you have a group of eight guys consistent enough that you can roll them out every day, but most teams don't have that," Counsell said. "Even good teams don't have that. Changing it around is not always a reflection of a massive change in talent from day to day. It's just the best matchup on a daily basis over the course of 162 games."

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected lineup of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Brewers might stack up:

LINEUP VS. RHP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Sogard, 2B
Thames, 1B
Braun, LF
Shaw, 3B
Santana, RF
Stephen Vogt, C
Brett Phillips, CF
Arcia, SS

LINEUP VS. LHP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Villar, 2B
Santana, RF
Braun, LF
Jesus Aguilar, 1B
Shaw/Hernan Perez, 3B
Pina, C
Broxton/Lewis Brinson, CF
Arcia, SS

STRENGTH
Balance. General manager David Stearns made it a priority to add left-handed bats during the 2016-17 offseason, and the result was the addition of Sogard and co-home run leaders Thames and Shaw. Phillips' strong September (.851 OPS) adds another option. And if you are a believer that hitters perform better in a familiar lineup position, then the Brewers are in a good spot with everyone currently slated to return.

Video: MIL@STL: Phillips strikes early with a three-run jack

QUESTION MARKS

How cemented is Braun in the three-hole? How will the rest of the outfield rotation play out if everyone stays healthy? If Arcia continues to boost his on-base percentage, is it time to move him up the order? Can Villar bounce back from a bad season?

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE

Stearns still has an eye on second base, and an addition there -- Neil Walker remains a free agent -- would have a ripple effect on the lineup. For the moment, a Sogard/Villar platoon looks most likely.

Video: CHC@MIL: Sogard laces a game-tying RBI single in 7th

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

 

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