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Thursday, August 04, 2005

WALKING THE LINE
The Angels sure seem happy with their new lineup. And why shouldn't they? Since moving The OC to the second spot and The Punter to the third spot, thus putting Vlad fourth and Garret fifth, the team is 3-2, and has scored 37 runs in those games (7.4 runs per game). Stroke of genius, right?

Orlando Cabrera was hitting 247/298/347 and the end of play on July 28. The next day, he was moved to the second spot, and now his line is all the way up to 250/304/350. He's gone 6-20 (.300 average) with three walks (.391 OBP) and two doubles (.400 SLG) in that time.

Meanwhile, since moving to the third spot, Darin Erstad is 6-19 (.316) with two walks (.381) and one double (.368).

The goal of the move was to get more "hitters" in front of Vlad so that he would come up more often with men on base. With Cabrera's .391 OBP and Erstad's .381 over the last five games, this has mostly worked.

Though I'm glad this has worked out so far, or at least over the two days against a mediocre pitching staff, I am highly skeptical of it working for much longer. Cabrera is just not suited to one of the two top spots in the order. Cabrera has never had a season where he had an OBP higher than the park-adjusted league average (per BB-ref). Even in his best offensive seasons, Cabrera has been an out machine that balances it out with baserunning and adequate power.

And Darin Erstad, as you know, is not a real third-place hitter. Last season was the first time he had an above-average OBP since his outrageous 2000 season, and only the fourth time in his career he had accomplished that feat. And Erstad's SLG has been well-below standard since 2000, as well.

Eventually, this is going to catch up to the team, and Vlad and Garret are going to be up a lot with no one on base. It seems to me that if you want to get "hitters" in front of those guys, you would be best-served to move actual hitters to those spots. Someone like, I don't know, Adam Kennedy, who has an OBP of .376 and has been above-average in that category for each of the last three years.

Of course, the crazy thing about baseball is that, even though that may make sense, it may not have worked as well, as Kennedy hasn't been too hot the last couple of games.

Another factor, and one about which I'm an avowed skeptic, is the psychological. Perhaps moving Cabrera up in the order will cause him to focus more and become a better hitter -- or at least hit up to his career norms, which he has been underperforming all season. (That wouldn't necessarily speak well of Cabrera's professionalism, but maybe putting him in the two-spot gives him a definite role upon which he can concentrate and excel.) And maybe shaking up the lineup helped to free the minds of Angel hitters, who may have been pressing due to the team-wide offensive woes of July. Maybe it's a placebo effect. Or maybe it's an effect of getting to face Sidney Ponson.

You can't prove to me that those are factors, and I can't prove to you that they aren't. Either way, I still believe that in the long run this new lineup is asking for trouble (though, honestly, lineup effects are pretty small), but I'll delight while it seems to work, and I welcome Cabrera and Erstad to prove me wrong.

Comments:
we were robbed of a second consecutive night of hooters chicken wings.
 
I don't think lineup effects are small (if Vlad batted 9th, the team would certainly score fewer runs and sticking someone like Chone behind someone like Bengie can ruin Chone's speed advantage. Regardless, I largely agree with you. My main beefs are that OC has not shown any propensity to bat or get on base well...why reward him...and putting one more spot between Chone and Vlad is asking for less scoring chances. The opposite take from Scioscia's is that now there are more opportunities for outs before Vlad (specifically between Chone and Vlad), thus reducing his RBI chances. However, this lineup can work out if pitchers try too hard to get three outs in the first inning so that Vlad does not come up with anyone on base (this happened last night when Vlad came up with Fig on in the 1st and promptly doubled). Of course, now I am just rambling back and forth...
 
I was going to say something about that but it evaded me. Thanks for getting to it. Cabrera has done nothing to justify his presence in the number two spot; facing inconstent to bad Yankee (and Oriole) pitching has had far more to do with Cabrera's resurgence than his abilities. We've seen him all year, and I doubt it gets better. Maybe Stephen Smith is right about Cabrera's bone chips affecting his swing, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
 
I don't think lineup effects are small (if Vlad batted 9th, the team would certainly score fewer runs and sticking someone like Chone behind someone like Bengie can ruin Chone's speed advantage.

Well, let me be more specific, then. The difference between any two reasonable lineups is pretty small. A lot of people have looked at this over the years, and you the span between the worst lineup imaginable and the best lineup is maybe a game or two, but the difference between two decent lineups is pretty negligible.

Of course, today the game ended with Vlad standing on deck. Each spot in the batting order gets about 9 or so more PA per year than the spot that follows it. So that's worth something, too.
 
Of course, today the game ended with Vlad standing on deck. Each spot in the batting order gets about 9 or so more PA per year than the spot that follows it. So that's worth something, too.

Using that math, Orlando C. will get about 50 or 60 more plate appearances than #9 hitter Adam K.

Their respective OBP's?

OC - .302
AK - .374

Great move Scioscia.

I really think that Arte would be well served finding a SABR friendly GM and manager. With the money he is throwing around this team could be scary if the folks making the decisions knew what they were doing.
 
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