By David Little – @DLittleMLB
Its spring training, so theres not much going on, but one thing that is fun is seeing the different lineups and players getting involved. Something I have always loved is lineup organization. I love the old school approach and I love the articles on lineup optimization. I love this game, and the lineup seems to be one of the most crucial parts to the strategy of it. Its turns out research shows that lineups aren’t the end all to be all, but I still love them. With all this in mind, let’s theorize about what the lineup will be and what it really should be according to modern thought. Much of the following is taken from, “The Book: Playing the percentages in baseball” by Tom M. Tango. This is a recommended reading if you want to take your baseball knowledge to the next level.
In 2016, the most common lineup we saw (based on starts at that number in the order) was the following;
Clearly, this will be changing. I won’t point out the most obvious change, as it hurts me deeply, but I think we can see that much lineup shuffling will be done. Knowing that Farrell has a lack for flare (and intelligence at times), we can assume that he will roll with similar setups. I could see Betts moved into the three hole, as that’s tradition, with Pedroia or X man at 1-2, with Ramirez, Moreland, Sandoval, Bradley and Benny rounding out the last guys is some order or another. This seems to be traditional thought, as its common to see your best hitter third, with power through 4-6, and your highest speed guys at the top. I don’t think this strategy would be completely futile but I want to dive into more of the current thought on batting order optimization.
Traditionally, you would place your speed guy and base stealer in the first spot. For us last year, that was Mookie. But the new method of thought is to have your highest OBP player bat in this position. The reasoning is pretty simple: get on base to make runs. And guess what? Our highest OBP guy was Ortiz, which would have been weird. This year however it’s Pedroia. So we will put him in there to see how this works out.
In the second spot, the traditional thought was to have a contact guy
On the Red Sox, our leader in both those categories is again, Ortiz. But currently Mookie is the leader so we will put him in that position.
In the third spot, we use to put our best all around hitter. But, according to modern statistical tracking, the number three comes to bat with fewer runners on base then the number 4 or 5. Which means this position is the spot to put a guy who is a good hitter, however, it’s not crucial. He will be your best hitter behind number 4 and 5. We will come back to this.
In the number 4 spot, traditionally your power guy sat here. Your cleanup hitter, if you will. That is still the case, as this hitter comes to bat in the spot of second most importance. Therefore, our second best hitter will sit here and that would be Hanley Ramirez based on wOBA and wRC+.
The number 5 was also a cleanup hitter traditionally, but a guy who may not have hit as many dingers as your number 4. According to modern thought, this is the spot for your 3rd best hitter. Again, according to wOBA and wRC+ this would be Sandy Leon, but stats show that he has had considerable luck in the form of BABIP, also known as balls being hit to open spots. He also has only 283 plate appearances last season. Therefore, we will put Bradley here as he is the 4th best current hitter.
Number 6 through nine include the remaining best hitters. Those hitters remaining are: Benintendi, Bogaerts then Moreland (in that order). We still have our number 3 to fill, so we will put Bogaerts
in there because of plate appearances and leave Benny with more at bats to prove himself. That makes our number 6 Moreland, our number 7 Benny, and our number 8 Leon or Swihart or Sandoval, with number 9 remaining. These are very interchangeable and can be adjusted as we go, but this is a rough look.
With all this in mind then we have the following assembled batting order based on what the best most optimized lineup (statistically speaking) would be below, with the old order in brackets;
This is very different, as we see. I did not put positions as our DH will probably be interchangeable. I find this works out to be a very attractive lineup and not too controversial. I could see Benny moving up as the season goes on and let’s hope Ramirez continues his awesome production. Getting Mookie more at bats is always a good thing. Either way, it’s very exciting and I can’t wait to see how it plays out! All of the stats were compiled based on fangraphs.com, and lineup optimization strategies are based on “The Book” and current thought on sabremetrics. I hope you guys enjoy this, and please, lets discuss! I want to hear your thoughts!