Sky Kalkman over at Beyond the Boxscore has an article posted today about lineup optimization based on Tom Tango’s The Book, one of sabermetrics’ most important tomes. Read the full article for clarification, but the major point of the article can be condensed thusly:
Here’s how the lineup spots rank in the importance of avoiding outs:
#1, #4, #2, #5, #3, #6, #7, #8, #9
So, you want your best three hitters to hit in the #1, #4, and #2 spots. Distribute them so OBP is higher in the order and SLG is lower. Then place your fourth and fifth best hitters, with the #5 spot usually seeing the better hitter, unless he’s a high-homerun guy. Then place your four remaining hitters in decreasing order of overall hitting ability, with basestealers ahead of singles hitters. Finally, stop talking like the lineup is a make-or-break decision.
Another important point addressed is speed at the top of the order:
As for speed, stealing bases is most valuable in front of singles hitters, and since the top of the order is going to be full of power hitters, they’re not as important. The lead-off hitter is one of the best three hitters on the team, the guy without homerun power. Speed is nice, as this batter will have plenty of chances to run the bases with good hitters behind him.
I thought it would be interesting to construct a Yankees lineup with these precepts in mind, assuming everybody is healthy:
Derek Jeter (R) – High OBP, not much power, decent speed and good baserunning makes for a good fit. Do not want to waste Damon’s better power here.
Jorge Posada (S) – Good bet to be third best hitter on the team, high OBP guy. Thought about Teixeira, but did not want to waste his power on empty base situations.
Hideki Matsui (L) – Thought about Swisher, but a healthy Matsui is the better player.
Alex Rodriguez (R) – This is where you put your best combination of power and OBP ability.
Mark Teixeira (S) – Would be leading off if he had a bit of speed, is the team’s second best hitter.
Johnny Damon (L) – could have fit in a number of spots, but his combination of solid power and speed fit here.
Nick Swisher (S)- Swisher and Cano were fairly interchangeable, so OBP went first.
Robinson Cano (L)- 8th is a nice spot for him to work on his confidence.
Brett Gardner (L)- Provides speed to turn over the lineup, but is likely to be the teams least productive hitter.
Now the lineup without Alex, just moving everyone in the hierarchy up one spot:
Derek Jeter (R)
Jorge Posada (S)
Johnny Damon (L)
Mark Teixeira (S)
Hideki Matsui (L)
Nick Swisher (S)
Robinson Cano (L)
Brett Gardner (L)
Cody Ransom (R)
I had to make some rough judgments here, so it may be that I did not exactly follow the formula. Jeter was hardest to place, due to his not being one of the three best hitters on the team, but being the only one to have high OBP with weak power and some speed made the leadoff spot the most natural fit. It is intriguing to see how different the lineup might be if managers went solely by the numbers.
What do you think about these lineups? Would your judgements based on the same criteria be different?
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