D-backs lineup construction is like numbers floating over Lovullo’s head
PHOENIX – Baseball is so much about the numbers. And for Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo, the numbers that occupy a lot of his time are 1-8, as in the first eight spots in the batting order prior to each game.
“Lineup construction is something that never ends in my head. It’s like a bunch of numbers floating around every single day,” he said Wednesday, ahead of the D-backs series-finale with the Cincinnati Reds. “What was the movie? ‘A Beautiful Mind’ (about American mathematician) John Nash, where you see the numbers floating over your head all the time; that’s kind of what I go through.”
Toward the end of the D-backs’ most recent road trip, and with his team in an offensive funk, Lovullo juggled some of the numbers, hitting guys in different spots.
For example, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt was inserted into the two-hole rather than bat third, where he had been all season.
“I don’t know if it gives him a different bird’s eye view on things, I don’t exactly know, but he’s swinging the bat good,” Lovullo said, referring to Goldschmidt’s 3-for-12 performance as a two-hitter, all before Goldschmidt hit a two-run home run in the first inning Wednesday. “And starting in Milwaukee, where he started to backspin some balls, I felt like he was just having better at-bats, so moving him to second gave us a little bit of a left-right-left push at the top of the lineup” with center fielder Jarrod Dyson and third baseman Jake Lamb sandwiched around Goldschmidt.
That left a vacancy in the cleanup spot, and right now that spot belongs to play-anywhere, do-everything Daniel Descalso, whose two-run home run Tuesday night erased an early deficit and helped the D-backs post back-to-back wins for the first time since early May.
Hitting fourth over the last four games, Descalso is 4-for-13 with one home run and four RBI.
“He’s just a good hitter, he’s just got the right approach and he’s locked in right now,” Lovullo said.
The final domino to fall with regards to the batting order was left fielder David Peralta. After being the team’s leadoff hitter all season long, Peralta is now hitting fifth, which may be his new home moving forward.
“I wanted to thicken up the middle of the lineup as best as I possibly could. It wasn’t anything on David, it was just me being as creative as possible and looking at it a different way,” Lovullo said.
“I’m not big on making wholesale changes, but I have to subtly do some different things to hopefully get the offense moving in a good direction. And David is versatile. He can hit in any part of the lineup. The only thing he asked is he didn’t hit ninth when I talked to him. I told him he would definitely not hit ninth.”
Lovullo compared lineup construction to chess, a game that, for him, is fun to play but not quite — and perhaps never will be — mastered. It’s a game, though, Lovullo won’t stop playing, just like trying to find the best lineup combination for that day’s matchup.
“Because I hurt and I care and I want to do the right thing for a team that’s not performing up to their standards,” he said. “And I don’t want to do things that are going to drastically change their mindset or confuse them, but I want to do what I possibly can to construct a lineup that’s going to create runs and create opportunities. It seems to be working.”
— Following his first official rehab appearance for Single-A Visalia, right-hander Shelby Miller was due back in the Valley to resume his throwing program, according to Lovullo, who added Miller is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Saturday.
“Everything from what I read, and I got a chance to talk to him last night for a short period of time, is exactly where we need him to be and he’s really encouraged by it,” Lovullo said.
When and where Miller makes his next start has yet to be announced, though Lovullo mentioned Double-A Jackson as a possibility.
— As a senior at UCLA in 1987, Lovullo hit 24 home runs. As a freshman at ASU in 2018, Spencer Torkelson hit 25, breaking the Pac-12 freshman single-season record.
“First of all, I want to say congratulations to him. It’s a tremendous honor. He has a lot to be proud of,” Lovullo said. “The fact that my name is in there makes me laugh. It seems like I played this game so long ago, but I guess I did OK in college and I’m proud of that.”