Thursday, February 17, 2005

You're out of order! The whole freakin' system is out of order!

Imagine, if you will, Nick Johnson leading off

Not so strange, if you are the writer of the Eucalyptus blog.

I am of the school that believes lineups don't matter. How you order the players doesn't mean as much as selecting the right players in the first place. I think that except for getting your best players more at-bats by putting them higher in the order, the run producers are close enough together to
get the runs regardless of the lineup.


This is a fairly common sabermetric precept, though among more "mainstream" writers it's sort of a "hush-hush" belief, lest the writer sound crazy. ("Jack Cust? Lead-off hitter?" 'Nuf said.)

On the other hand, for people who have thought about baseball for more than five seconds, the notion occasionally occurs that all this fretting about who hits where might be overblown. That way of thinking's progeny is the "lineup out of a hat" novelty construction managers sometimes threaten (and, at least once, enacted).

Furthermore, most people these days understand that a good on-base percentage is vital for a lead-off hitter---though some may still believe that speed and the ability to "disrupt the defense" are assets enough. After all, why else would anyone care that Endy Chavez had a .291 OBP in 174 lead-off at-bats, or whatever, last year?

(There are many studies out there, rigorous or not, that emphasize lead-off OBP. For instance, see this study naming the best lead-off hitters of 1997 from SABR's "Behind the Numbers" publication. The study is fashioned on assumptions that lead-off is a discrete enough (as commonly perceived) batting order position to matter and that OBP is more important than raw "run-scoring-ability" for a lead-off guy.) [Note: I'd be shocked if that link isn't broken. Meh, who cares.]

Which brings us to Eucalyptus' proposed Nats lineup, based on his (or her) preferred criteria:

Still, my philosophy is to pick out the three best slugging percentages first. Between these three, put the worst OBP 3rd, the best OBP clean-up, and the other guy 5th. The two best OBP left over bat 1-2. The rest of the lineup is according to descending OPS. So here's my 2005 Nats batting order with career OBP/Slugging:

And we get:

Johnson
Castilla
Sledge
Wilkerson
Vidro
Guillen
Schneider
Guzman
Pitcher

Ah, no LaRussa batting the pitcher eighth, huh?

Anyway, it's interesting---and, if the stathead studies hold their weight, probably as effective as most other constructions.

Comments:
Hmm. Well, I haven't thought too much about this. But based on that starting 9 -- which is probably my prediction, as well, since I'm no Endy fan -- I'd say:

Sledge
Guillen
Johnson
Wilkerson
Vidro
Castilla
Schneider
Guzman
Livan

But I'm still guessing that Endy will start, and that he'll also lead off.
 
I guess "Guzman" means "batting eighth" in any language, eh? ;-)

Interesting, though. I hadn't thought of Sledge batting lead-off.
 
I dunno. I thought about Sledge as leadoff some more, and I like it less and less. He's got some speed (not a lot of SBs, but plenty of triples last year), and he seems to have developed a better eye as the season wore on, but he's not as safe a choice as, say, Wilkerson. I do like Sledge toward the top of the order, though.

I dunno -- I don't think there's a real leadoff among the bunch. Endy isn't the answer, though -- that much I know.
 
See, when there's a lineup like this with a clear deliniation between good and bad hitters, I tend to subscribe to Joe Sheehan's "all-boy power kickball" lineup idea.

Basically, you bunch your best hitters at the top, leave the dregs at the bottom, and hope to score some runs every other inning, between the wasteland that is the bottom of the lineup.

To boot:
Johnson
Wilkerson
Vidro
Guillen
Sledge
---- (dividing line between good and bad)
Castilla
Schneider
Guzman (or even pitcher -- if Guzman can run, I can see hitting him 9th to put somebody on base for Johnson, 25% of the time or whenever he actually gets on)
 
Trapper John: Yeah, we really don't have a great idea of where Sledge's OBP will settle yet. That would tell a lot.

Yuda: I was thinking of Sheehan's thoughts yesterday when writing this but couldn't find a link quickly enough (work to do). I wonder if the "throw every other" (or at least the second inning) idea would work "in real life."
 
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