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Thursday, March 02, 2006

GETTING IN LINE
This recent Cyril Morong article has started a mini-fad of team-specific bloggers using David Pinto's lineup generator to come up with wacky but "sabermetrically sound" batting orders.

I have stayed out of this fray for two reasons:

1. I think it's all a bit silly, for reasons explained by a poster named Guy M in the second post of this BTF thread.
2. I knew The Book would have a chapter on lineup construction, and I wanted to wait until I read that.

Well, I received The Book a few days ago (I'll be writing more about it after I finish reading it), and have read the first four chapters. Chapter five is the one on the batting order, so I haven't gotten there yet.

But Studes at the Hardball Times is a faster reader than me and/or isn't tied down by pesky little things like a social life (I kid, Studes, I kid!), because he's already not only read that chapter, he's written an article on it.

According to a chapter I have not yet read in The Book:
Your three best hitters should bat somewhere in the #1, #2 and #4 slots. Your fourth- and fifth-best hitters should occupy the #3 and #5 slots. The #1 and #2 slots will have players with more walks than those in the #4 and #5 slots. From slot #6 through #9, put the players in descending order of quality.
In Studes' article, he attempts to apply these lessons to a few teams and devise an optimal lineup for 2006. One of those teams is our band of heavenly heroes, and here is what Studes prescribes:
Rivera       
Anderson
Kennedy
Guerrero
Kotchman
Figgins
Erstad
Cabrera
Molina
An unconventional approach, to be sure.

One "problem" a manager has in setting up a lineup -- or, in fact, that a general manager has in filling out a team -- is knowing who will be better than whom. Saying "bat your best three batters 1, 2, and 4" is all good, but if you misidentify those three batters, you may be in trouble.

For instance, I'm not entirely convinced that Garret Anderson will out-hit Legs Figgins this year. Well, he'll probably out-hit him, but Figgins' overall offensive contribution may get him in the neighborhood. By Baseball Prospectus' numbers, Figgins has had an Equivalent Average of .269 the last two seasons Garret has matched the league average of .260.

I would actually, if implementing this excerpt from The Book, re-jigger our lineup to look like this:
vs. LHP         vs. RHP
Figgins Figgins
Rivera McPherson
Anderson Anderson
Vlad Vlad
Kotchman Kotchman
Cabrera Cabrera
Erstad Erstad
Mathis/Molina Mathis/Molina
Kennedy Kennedy
There are a few things going on here; another thing I'm taking into account is that apparently the research performed in The Book confirms the oft-verbalized maxim that the #9 spot is a "second" leadoff hitter position. Another thing is that I prefer lineups to not have too many left-handed batters hitting consecutively, as that leaves them vulnerable in the late innings to teams with effective left-handed relief specialists. Strictly speaking, were I to try to implement "From slot #6 through #9, put the players in descending order of quality," I would bat Kennedy 6th.

The Angel lineup this year is heavily left-handed, between Kotchman, Kennedy, Anderson, Erstad, and a hopefully healthy McPherson, so I don't know that there is any reasonable way to avoid doing that.

And not that it's a huge deal, but I don't think it's a longshot that Kotch will out-produce McPherson/Rivera this year, so another alternative on the lineups would be to flip him with their spot.

Of course, more important than the actual batting order is what players are in it. Whether or not Casey Kotchman will be hitting 2nd, 5th, or 8th is a small issue compared to whether or not Casey Kotchman will be hitting well.

Comments:
Well, I do have three kids. So, no, I really don't have a social life.

Good post, Black Hawk! Thanks.
 
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