I know proposed lineups are a dime-a-dozen, but I have actually waited until now to decide what I think the best A's lineup would be, so I thought I would unveil it, along with my accompanying reasons, for discussion as Opening Day fast approaches. After much careful debilitation, I have settled on this as my vote for the best lineup (when all the regular starters are in):
Why I settled on this lineup:
I think Kotsay is a decent #2 hitter, but his modest OBP might make him better suited to the lower half of the order, while his excellent RISP numbers make him a good choice to hit at the end (but not past) the "heart of the order".
Meanwhile, in comparison to Kotsay, Bradley offers a higher OBP, and a higher slugging percentage, in the #2-hole. Most of his at bats will come left-handed, where a #2 hitter can benefit from the right-side hole (when there is a runner at first) and can more easily advance runners from second with nobody out.
I don't think batting Kendall 7th is crazy, because his excellent RISP track-record would be put to good use. 8th is also fine, but I think 9th is ideal in creating the "double-leadoff hitter" scenario. In my lineup, an inning where Kendall leads off actually falls beautifully into place as its own batting order: Kendall's strength is his ability to get on base, Ellis is a natural #2 hitter, Bradley a worthy #3 hitter, Chavy an experienced #4 hitter, and so on. Me likey.
I'd like to see Crosby in the #5-hole where he is part of the "heart of the order" but a hair removed from the high-profile status of the 3-4 spots. I thought the A's were a bit stubborn last year, running Croz out in the #3-hole day after confidence-numbing day when he was clearly pressing. Perhaps the experience made him a perfect #3 hitter today, but I'd prefer to see him wear out pitching in the #5-hole and then make the transition--especially when the A's now have two hitters who naturally fit into the 3-4 spots, and thus can afford the luxury.
Finally, this lineup successfully avoids the parade of left-handed or right-handed hitters that could make an opposing manager's job easier. Johnson and Kotsay are back-to-back, but Kotsay has consistently hit LHP as well, or better, than he has hit RHP. Overall, the balance seems fine to me.
So that's the lineup Coach Nico would put out there on Opening Day. I don't think it's the one you'll see Monday night, but who knows--it may show up one in one of the future lineups that "the players write out".