When looking at the Cubs' 2007 lineup, a few things can be assumed. Alfonso Soriano is going to bat first, and the 3-6 slots will probably be filled by Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Jacque Jones, and Michael Barrett -- in that order. The big question becomes, who is going to bat second, between Soriano and Lee?
There would seem to be four candidates, depending on the left field platoon. Cezar Izturis and Mark DeRosa figure to be everyday players, with Matt Murton and Cliff Floyd sharing the duties in left.
Let me first say that under no circumstance should Izturis bat second. I realize that the face he is a switch hitter makes it very tempting to put him there, but it's no secret that his offensive skills are less than spectactular. While the chance of him putting up a Neifi-ish sub-.300 OBP seems slim, both PECOTA and ZIPS project his OBP to be around .320, and when coupled with the relatively small amount of pop in his bat, makes him a good candidate for the bottom of the order.
DeRosa will probably be a better hitter, but I am still somewhat concerned with his ability to get on base. Remember, that second slot is important, with the heavy hitters coming up next. I honestly think that it was the 2005 Cubs' inability to get their top of the order guys on base for Lee to drive in that cost him the MVP, and it is certain that it cost them runs. It wouldn't upset me to have him in that spot, though, particularly if he's able to make contact and give Soriano a chance to run when he gets on base. ZIPS thinks that his OBP will be comparable to Izturis'; PECTOA says 10-20 points higher. Both projections could very well be wrong. Last year was a career year for DeRosa, but he posted .296/.357/.456 line: if he can repeat those numbers, he will be more than acceptable at second base, and batting second.
The option I favor is having Matt Murton bat second, something that I haven't made much of a secret of over the last year. His .297/.365/.444 line from last season is very close to DeRosa's numbers, except that Murton has been hitting like this his entire professional career. His numbers have come down in the majors with increased competition, but he defied the fluke-cryers last year with a very solid season. People question whether he will ever develop real power (13 HR in 508 ABs last year), but batting in the two hole, he's not going to be looking to drive a ton of runners home anyway. His batting stats are likely to rise even higher with the dangerous baserunner Soriano in front of him and a healthy Derrek Lee waiting on deck. Le's patience and ability to get on base are the marks of a good hitter, and a guy who could wind up scoring a lot of runs for the 2007 Cubs. For what it's worth, PECOTA and ZIPS see almost the exact same batting stats for Murton as 2006.
And yes, I do realize that I have a level of man-love for Murton. Deal with it.
The question then is what to do when Floyd is in the lineup? He doesn't run very well, but his bat works fine. He has more power than Murton, and while he doesn't have the long-term upside, he's probably about as valuable a player as Murton is, except he's a left-handed batter. A platoon here makes a ton of sense, because Murton hits lefties significantly better than righties (OPS of .870 versus .782 in 2006). Floyd's advantage over righties is even higher: in 2005 (his last healthy season) he posted an OPS of .915 against them, as opposed to .710 against left handers. I would make the argument that the Cubs' best option against right handed starters would have Jacque Jones (.303/.358/.528 against RHP in 2006) moved into the #2 slot and Floyd batting fifth behind Ramirez. Floyd is likely to sit out some games against righties, in which case Murton is probably better suited for the second spot in the order than Jones. Frankly, I think that it would be fine to have Murton and Floyd split time against righties, and have Floyd available off the bench .
In summation, I would favor the following starting lineups:
Vs. RHP, with Floyd in LF:
With Murton in LF: