Which teams have the best lineups?
Observers tab Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and Mets
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Some insisted the Indians should make the cut.
Others voted for the Dodgers.
The Angels, Braves, Cubs and Rockies also had support. But when it came to picking the best lineups in baseball right now, five teams drew the most support in an informal polling of scouts, players, coaches and media this spring.
These five lineups, based on their all-around abilities, drew the most support for best lineup in the game. Here they are, and let the debate begin.
1. Detroit Tigers: As one opposing coach put it this spring, "If that team doesn't win the World Series, I'll be very surprised, because they have an awesome lineup and a very good pitching staff."
How could a lineup that scored 887 runs last year -- the third most in baseball -- then went out and added four-time All-Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera not be our No. 1 choice?
Cabrera hit .320 with 34 homers and 119 RBIs for the Marlins last season. Now he moves into the fifth spot in the batting order behind No. 3 hitter Gary Sheffield (.265, 25 HR, 75 RBIs in 133 games) and AL batting champ/doubles leader Magglio Ordonez (.363, 28, 139) in the cleanup spot.
Curtis Granderson (who hit .302 with 23 homers and an AL-leading 23 triples last year) will lead off with Placido Polanco (.341 batting average, .388 OBP, 67 RBIs), hitting second. Polanco, an All-Star last season, had the best ratio of at-bats per strikeout (19.6) in the league last season.
Carlos Guillen (.296, 21, 102) will hit sixth, followed by Edgar Renteria (.332, .390 OBP, 12 HR, 57 RBIs), Ivan Rodriguez (.281, 11, 61) and Jacque Jones (.285 in 135 games for the Cubs last season).
Not too shabby when your No. 9 hitter has a career .280 batting average.
"I wasn't very good in math, but I did some math the other day," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I figured out that the four guys hitting in front of Cabrera hit a combined average of .320 [and] I did some math and I figured out that that made a little sense."
Seven of the regulars have been named to a combined 41 All-Star teams. And this lineup is more than offense. Up the middle, catcher Rodriguez (13), second baseman Polanco (1) and shortstop Renteria (2) have accounted for 16 Gold Gloves.
2. New York Yankees: The Yankees led the Major Leagues with 968 runs and a .290 batting average last season, and the 2008 lineup, led by AL MVP Alex Rodriguez (.314, 54 HR, 156 RBIs), figures to be as potent as ever.
Most of the lineup has been together a while and -- assuming everyone is healthy -- the Yankees figure to crank out runs at an impressive clip.
Joining Rodriguez are shortstop Derek Jeter (.322, 12, 73), catcher Jorge Posada (.338, 20, 90), designated hitter Hideki Matsui (.285, 25, 103), second baseman Robinson Cano (.306, 19, 97) and first baseman Jason Giambi (.236, 14, 39 in 83 games).
Outfielders Johnny Damon (.270, 12, 63), Melky Cabrera (.273, 8, 73) and Bobby Abreu (.283, 16, 101) are solid.
They don't stack up defensively when compared to some of the other elite lineups, but they are at least adequate defensively and compensate for speed shortcomings with an abundance of slugging.
Age could become a factor with this Yankee nine. Giambi is 37 years old and Posada will be in August. Jeter, Matsui and Abreu turn 34 this season. Damon will be 35 in November.
3. Boston Red Sox: With six regulars with on-base percentages of .367 or higher and six guys who hit 11 or more homers. the Red Sox outscored opponents by 210 runs last season. And that's with disappointing years from a few regulars.
Even when they aren't hitting on all cylinders, the Red Sox have a formidable lineup, regardless of whether Coco Crisp or Jacoby Ellsbury is starting in center.
The rest of the cast is back and poised for another potent year. Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz remain one of the most feared 1-2 punches in the game. J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek form the rest of the Red Sox nine.
"I think they'll be even better this year than they were last year," one coach from an opposing team said.
And that was good enough to help the Red Sox win their second World Series in four years.
4. Philadelphia Phillies: Led by a pair of Most Valuable Player Award winners, first baseman Ryan Howard and shortstop Jimmy Rollins, and a second baseman -- Chase Utley -- who might win the hardware someday, the Phillies have an infield that is second to none.
That trio is also the cornerstone of an offense that scored an NL-leading 892 runs last season en route to the NL East crown. The addition of Pedro Feliz (.253, 20 HR, 72 RBIs for the Giants last season) should shore up third base. The Phillies replaced Aaron Rowand with Shane Victorino, who moves over from right field with free-agent signee Geoff Jenkins (.255, 21, 64 for the Brewers last season) taking over in right.
Left fielder Pat Burrell and catcher Carlos Ruiz are back, giving the Phillies six starters who hit 20 or more homers last season.
The Phillies might score 900 runs this time, and they are above average defensively and have excellent speed.
5. New York Mets: The Mets edged the Indians for the fifth spot. Last year only Colorado (.280) had a higher team batting average than the Mets (.275) among NL teams. The Mets were also one of just five NL teams to top 800 runs. They were the only team in the league to record 200 stolen bases and only Colorado and Philadelphia had better on-base percentages.
What would the Mets have done if they had stayed healthy?
OK, every team has injuries. But there's no question the New York lineup, when everyone is healthy, consists of a balanced attack with substantial power, speed and on-base ability.
Center fielder Carlos Beltran is a five-tool talent and third baseman David Wright and shortstop Jose Reyes are among the rising young stars in the game.
The Mets will be without left fielder Moises Alou for a few weeks after hernia surgery. First baseman Carlos Delgado's continued good health could become a factor.
The Mets added catcher Brian Schneider and right fielder Ryan Church in the offseason and re-signed second baseman Luis Castillo.
The talent is there for New York to move up.
If they can just keep everybody healthy.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.