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Why Moving Barton Down In the Batting Order Is A Bad Idea

First of all, this post is neither "pro Barton" nor "anti Barton" -- I say that because Daric seems to have replaced Jack Cust as the A's most controversial position player.

According to RotoWorld (see left sidebar), Bob Geren is considering what many fans have called for: Moving Barton down in the batting order. Here's the problem. Moving forward, Barton is either going to continue doing what he is doing (batting just over .200 and getting on base at only a .320 clip) or he will improve. Either way, moving him down in the order will not help. Here's why.

Barton's lack of "1Bman power" is a given, whether he's going great (2010) or terribly (2009, 2011). If Barton continues to hit for a poor batting average and mediocre on base percentage, he is best served at AAA. This would be even truer if the A's had, as they had planned, someone knocking at the door like Chris Carter or Sean Doolittle, or if Conor Jackson had enough power and enough skills against RHPs to warrant a shot at the every day gig.

If Barton improves, his skill set will serve the A's best right where he is. Barton's skills are the ability to get on base and set the table, and if he starts doing that in the #7 spot he will reach base a lot in front of Kevin Kouzmanoff and Cliff Pennington, while a hitter known to have mediocre on base skills, e.g., Kurt Suzuki, will be pushed up in the lineup.

You can say, "Bat DeJesus #2" or "Bat Sweeney #2" and that's fine, but the ultimate effect of dropping Barton down is to push someone else up. It's called the "conservation of lineup" theory, where you have to bat exactly 9 guys, in some precise order, no matter how Daric Barton is hitting. Look at a likely "Opening Day" type lineup with Barton at #7. It might look like this:

Crisp - CF
DeJesus - RF
Matsui - DH
Willingham - LF
Suzuki - C
Ellis - 2B
Barton - 1B
Kouzmanoff - 3B
Pennington - SS

This is not better; it's just different and slightly worse, no matter how Barton hits. Dropping Barton in the batting order is the ultimate "in between" move that neither replaces him with someone better nor puts him where he is most useful. Either put him where he belongs in the order, or put him in AAA -- but when you look at actual lineups and at Barton's actual skill set when he is hitting well, nothing in between is going to help the A's offense.