Lineups, Numbers and The Real World - Part 1

As you read in Bob’s piece last night the Skipper is being told by experts – and I use that term very loosely – that he’s got the lineup wrong and should amongst other things, move Heyward back to the two hole. Sunday he did that – only to rest Nate McClouth – and it didn’t help. The lineup does need help but moving Heyward to the two hole answers the wrong question.  More on that another day but consider that Heyward’s numbers from the six hole (.291/.418/.684/1.102) are higher than they are in the two hole (.281/.393/.430/.823). The sample size is admittedly smaller but even with  some not too great numbers this year they remain better. I’ll leave the rest of my feelings on the lineup for now. I want to carry forward a bit the subject of sabermetric lineups from Bob’s post.For the sabermetrically challenged let me first explain (oversimplify) that those who believe in the numbers say that 10 runs more scored a year is one added win. Without going into the details of the calculations, those folks created what they call a sabermetric optimized lineup. According to their calculations the standard lineup and the sabermetric optimized lineup can be summarized like this:

Standard ……………………………………………………Optimized

1 Speedy guy who can hopefully get on base           One of the three best hitters (high OBP)

2 Good bat handler                                                           One of the three best hitters

3 Best hitter                                                                       5th best hitter

4 Best power hitter                                                        One of the three best hitters (high SLG)

5 Second best (contact) hitter                                 4th best hitter

6 Best remaining power hitter                                 6th best hitter

7 7th best hitter                                                       7th best hitter

8 8th best hitter                                                       8th best hitter (or pitcher if NL)

9 9th best hitter                                                      9th best hitter (eighth best hitter if NL)

(This is directly taken from The Definitive Sabermetric Guide to Managing by Scott McKinney.)

The idea is that your best batters get more plate appearances and therefore score more runs for you than in the traditional lineup. The article goes on to discuss the merits of bunting, intentional walks, base stealing and platooning if you’re interested. I’ll stick to just the lineup here to keep this short; well shorter.

The optimized lineup uses statistics to decide who goes where. Rather than wander through the multitude of calculations there’s a lineup simulator on line. I ran a series of lineups through that while watching us fail to beat the Mets today to see what the theoretical differences were. One of the variables that effects the simulation is how the numbers are chosen. If we had a large enough sample size current year numbers would be best. Since we are only 16 games in I chose to use the 162 game average numbers from http://www.baseball-reference.com. For Matt Young I used last year’s numbers at Gwinnett. Yes I know he’s not likely to immediately perform at that level but I couldn’t decide how much to reduce them to equalize for a major league year, so I left them alone. I used Freeman’s big league numbers even though he doesn’t have a full year yet. I used Tommy Hanson’s numbers for the pitcher though almost any pitcher would do since we don’t have pitchers who are hitters like Zambrano and Galladro. If you use different numbers you’ll get a different set of results of course. I compared the daily starting lineup so far this year against a few others including one I just randomly created according to the formula. The lineups’ run production over 162 games varied from a low of 3.79 runs per game and 616 for the year to a high 4.20 runs per game and 680 for the year. That’s a theoretical increase in games won of 6. Which lineup produced the best and worst numbers? Before I tell you, you tell me. I’ve included a graphic of the lineups in question below. Since I’m too lazy to create a poll, post a comment and tell me in as much detail as you like which one you feel is the best and which you feel is the worst. I have a baseball autographed by a former Brave I’ll give to the first person who correctly picks the best and worst according to my simulations. You could of course run your own but really, unless you’re a closet sabermetrician the baseball isn’t worth the headache you’ll get. The graphic is on the left, make your choice and let me know. Now I guess I should go file my taxes. . .

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