Potential Phillies Lineups

If you follow blogs with any regularity, the dawn of a new season brings plenty of lively lineup debates. The Phillies have certainly had their share of lineup debates as Jimmy Rollins is not the prototypical lead-off hitter and Shane Victorino seems better suited for that role. (If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “Victorino should lead off and Rollins should bat #6!”…)

The reality is that batting orders don’t matter all that much. They make for good conversation, but ultimately the most optimal lineup isn’t light years better than the least optimal lineup.

To illustrate this, I used this Lineup Analysis tool from Baseball Musings. For OBP and SLG, I used the PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus. I have three lineups: the least optimal, the most optimal, and the suggested lineup. For the pitcher’s spot, I simply punched in the 2010 National League average (.177/.176).

The chasm between the worst and best lineups is about 60 runs, or six wins. However, the difference between the suggested lineup and the best lineup is only 13 runs, or 1.3 wins. In other words, not that much — certainly not enough to warrant getting into a heated argument. If the difference between the suggested and best lineups was six wins, I would certainly empathize more with the arguments.

Of course, the above is simply an illustration with several assumptions: that the lineup analysis tool used is accurate (certainly debatable), that the Phillies use only one lineup throughout the year (which will definitely not be true), that the Phillies face an equal distribution of right- and left-handed pitchers (also will not be true), and that the PECOTA projections are accurate (maybe). Personally, I think the projections are pessimistic about the Phillies’ offense — they scored 772 runs last year despite the injury problems. Losing Jayson Werth hurts, but the Phillies should still be in the top 25 percent of NL offenses, regardless of which batting orders they employ.

Leave a Reply

*

37 comments

  1. Jorge Suarez

    February 24, 2011 09:11 AM

    I like the MOST optimal. Carlos Ruiz leading off is the perfect idea.

  2. Mark

    February 24, 2011 09:16 AM

    Bill here’s a post idea for you. With the lose of Adam Wainwright in St. Loius, what would you give up as far as a starter is concerned bunched with Howard to get Pujols? I mean I’m all for Blanton but I don’t think that would get it down. Would you give an Oswalt/Howard package for Pujols? We could then use the starters money and Howards contract to sign Pujols to 30mil+ per year. Just curious on your thoughts to see if this is something Rub is smugging over in his office.

  3. Bill Baer

    February 24, 2011 09:23 AM

    The probability of the Phillies getting Pujols is 0.0000%. He has a no-trade rights and has publicly said he will not accept a trade anywhere.

  4. Moose

    February 24, 2011 09:31 AM

    Hey Bill just curious here. How do you calculate a teams expected win-loss record? Isnt it based on runs? Assuming 1 win is worth 10 runs, the Phillies will be at about 73 from their offense. Now I know theyre gonna win more than that, so the runs given up factor into it obviosly, but how exactly?
    Thanks, I feel like I should know this though.

  5. Moose

    February 24, 2011 09:37 AM

    Exactly it. Thank you kind sir

  6. Aaron H

    February 24, 2011 10:25 AM

    Anyone find it funny that the least optimal lineup has Rollins leading off?

  7. Matt

    February 24, 2011 11:32 AM

    Although Ruiz had an exceptional year, his batting average was probably helped by batting in front of the pitcher. He probably would not get the same pitches in the leadoff spot.

  8. Matt B.

    February 24, 2011 11:40 AM

    Bill,

    I have one minor tweak to the suggested lineup for you, and im curious to hear what you think. Instead of Raul in the 5 spot what do you think about Jimmy being in the 5 spot instead? I know Schmidt just put his 2 sense out there yesterday and said he should be more like Pete Rose and go for more hits, but think about it this is Jimmy’s contract year. I think he would have more of an incentive to swing for the fences if Charlie set him loose and he would be more productive as well. Not to mention i would rather have Raul batting in front of Dom Brown any day instead of Jimmy. Thoughts?

    -Matt

  9. Richard

    February 24, 2011 11:46 AM

    Matt, Ruiz actually hit better, and drew more walks, out of the 7-spot, and I believe had more at-bats in that position.

  10. hk

    February 24, 2011 11:56 AM

    Richard,

    Chooch’s had a higher walk rate hitting 8th (43 BB + IBB in 211 PA’s) as compared to hitting 7th (25 BB + IBB in 209 PA’s) and his BABIP hitting 8th was .321 as compared to .354 hitting 7th. In addition, when he was hitting 7th, he was batting in front of Wilson Valdez or Juan Castro, which is really not much different than batting ahead of the pitcher. Therefore, Matt’s point seems to be a valid one that Chooch benefitted from a combination of good patience, batting in front of bad hitters and a little bit of BABIP luck.

  11. Richard

    February 24, 2011 12:22 PM

    heh, well that’ll teach me to go entirely on memory, won’t it?

  12. Matt B.

    February 24, 2011 12:35 PM

    Agreed, but i think with Ruiz behind Brown it will lead to more quality at bats for Dom. Dom having some protection behind him is key right now for his development and can only lead to great things for him.

  13. Scott G

    February 24, 2011 01:19 PM

    I don’t understand. Let’s assume these models are perfect. Why would you not use the optimum lineup? Are you just spitting on that 1.3 W advantage? It makes no sense.

    The point of people pushing for Ruiz to lead off (I am somewhat in that group), comes from the fact that he CAN and HAS exhibited patience. So he has that characteristic. Throw him in the leadoff spot and tell him to exhibit it. Also, if he’s batting before Utley I think pitchers would tend to throw him more fastballs. Why risk walking Ruiz to pitch to Utley? I don’t feel like looking up his contact rate or w.e against fastballs, but it’s probably higher than against off-speed pitches.

  14. LarryinLA

    February 24, 2011 01:37 PM

    Isn’t the assumption that the proportion of L/R pitchers being faced is the same as assumed in generating the predictions, not 50/50? So, that doesn’t seem like a big problem.

    The really problematic assumption is that Ruiz (and everyone else, but especially Ruiz) will play 162 games. He won’t, so the 1.3 win advantage is definitely an overestimate. You can only use that lineup in the games he plays.

  15. Chris

    February 24, 2011 02:40 PM

    My offering:

    ?Shane Victorino (assuming he sees > 2-3 pitches per AB)
    ?Placido Polanco
    ?Chase Utley
    ?Ryan Howard
    ?Jimmy Rollins
    ?Raul Ibanez
    ?Domonic Brown/Francisco
    ?Carlos Ruiz
    ?Pitcher

  16. hk

    February 24, 2011 02:43 PM

    Scott G,

    Even if we assume that the models are perfect, how do we know that PECOTA is the right projection system to use? Bill James’s projections are very different and would most lead to a totally different lineup. For instance, James projects Dom Brown to have the 4th highest OBP and 3rd highest wOBA – with Ibanez a distant 4th in wOBA, .026 behind Brown – of the regulars. If you plug in James’s projections, you might find Dom Brown batting 1st, 3rd or even 5th.

    The more important thing that I take away from the model is that it goes against convential baseball thinking and says that the best hitter should bat 2nd. If someone could teach this to Charlie, it would be especially beneficial to the Phils because it would serve the dual purpose of splitting the two LH hitters making teams at least think twice before bringing in a LOOGY to face Utley knowing that the LOOGY will also have to face a RH hitter before Howard.

  17. FanSince09

    February 24, 2011 04:39 PM

    Since Ruiz has the best OPS on the team, he should lead off!

  18. World

    February 24, 2011 04:39 PM

    How is this so difficult. Rollins bats 5th and everyone else bats where they did last year. Victorino is not a perfect lead-off man but he is the best the Phillies have at this point and is much better suited to bat first than is Rollins. JR has been swinging from the butt anyway since he saw the bandbox dimensions of Citizens Bank Park and if he can stay healthy, Rollins should be able to basically provide more or less the same the numbers posted by our previous right fielder who took the cash and went to DC.

    Chris has the lineup that the Phillies will use in 2011. Bet on it.

    Oh, the catcher will just love taking the gear off right away after the first inning to lead off. What a stupid idea. He is great at batting eight and there he stays.

  19. Ray

    February 24, 2011 05:53 PM

    It’s kind of strange that Victorino is batting 3rd in both the “Most Optimal” and “Least Optimal” lineups.

  20. Scott G

    February 24, 2011 06:04 PM

    HK,

    I was trying to say that assuming that whatever system you use is correct, why spit on “13 more runs per season”. Yes, I get that whatever lineup is predicted optimal won’t probably be the lineup for all 162 games due to injuries or mixing stuff up, but that’s true of any lineup you choose, so wouldn’t it just be a wash?

    My real main desire: Utley bats 2nd. Howard bats 4th. Ruiz/Rollins/Victorino bats 1st. Ruiz really shouldn’t bat 8th. I might actually like it if Manuel pulled a LaRussa, and batted Ruiz 9th. “The Book” shows that this will earn you a few more runs over the course of the season.

  21. Scott G

    February 24, 2011 11:13 PM

    btw, I find it almost comical how the comments on this site occur only during business hours. I come on here looking to read/discuss on the weekends/weeknights at times, and there’re no updates. I think this is too good a blog to have people only be interested (that’s how it seems anyway) while they’re at work.

  22. Bill Baer

    February 24, 2011 11:16 PM

    It’s probably because I mostly post only on weekdays at 8-9 AM. People read and comment when it’s posted, and most don’t care to follow up.

  23. awh

    February 25, 2011 07:22 AM

    Bill, I’d like to add to your ealier post:

    .The probability of the Phillies getting Pujols is -0.0000%, as in NEGATIVE.

  24. awh

    February 25, 2011 07:28 AM

    Bill, quick question:

    When you ran the BM tool which data for Phillies’ hitters did you use – career data or data from 2010?

  25. Mark

    February 25, 2011 09:00 AM

    I can dream can’t I! I know it’s not going to happen and has no chance of happening but it’s fun to ponder over.

  26. joao

    February 25, 2011 09:11 AM

    Scott G and I must think alike. I’ve often thought batting Ruiz ninth in a LaRussa style lineup would be interesting, and I also prefer Utley in the 2 spot. Victorino should lead off and focus on OBP instead of homers, and Jimmy works great batting fifth.

  27. Scott

    February 25, 2011 09:26 AM

    The decision to retain Blanton is a little surprising, but it sure will take a *little* bit of pressure off the big four in the regular season. Is there any better fifth starter in all of MLB than Joey Donuts? I know that’s not a question that comes up much, but I’m struggling to find one…

  28. chris

    February 25, 2011 03:29 PM

    Shane was 7th out of the regular 8 Phils in OBP and that included Rollins who played in only 88 games. He was 8th out of 8 until he turned it on a bit towards the end of the season. He gave me fits, because with his speed and ability to make contact, he should be around .380 OBP especially if he takes some pitches. Shane took only 53 walks, good for 6th of the starting 8, again with only Rollins behind him with 13 less walks BUT played 59 less games than Shane. With his speed, Shane should lead the NL in OBP, but he just doesn’t have the plate discipline. Schmidtty was right the other day, call him out and get on base.

  29. chris

    February 25, 2011 03:31 PM

    Scott….Joe Blanton is a great 5th starter. Check his August/September numbers. Don’t forget he was out from April 3rd until his first start on May 5th. I did a nice piece on Joe the other day, only if Bill will allow me to link my blog. The numbers from Blanton from July 16th onward were darn good.

  30. Scott

    February 25, 2011 06:47 PM

    Chris, the Blanton question was more of the rhetorical variety. I’m glad the Phils are holding on to him in the mean time…I just hope that the bats don’t go into those awful slumps like they did for extended periods of time last year. IF that happens, Amaro may be forced to trade him for any bat that’s available at the deadline…regardless of the money factor.

  31. hk

    February 26, 2011 08:44 AM

    I like the fact that the Phils kept Blanton if no GM’s were willing to offer fair value for him. He’s the best 5th starter in baseball, which obviously has benefits during the regular season plus he’s a hedge against an injury to one of the big 4. Also, if Oswalt gets hurt or starts to show signs of decline, Blanton might be insurance in case the Phils decide to decline Oswalt’s 2012 option.

    At the trade deadline, if the team looks like a sure thing for a playoff spot and the big 4 (and Blanton) are all healthy and pitching as expected, RAJ will have a decision to make. Should he trade Blanton, who at that point will most likely have more value to a playoff contender than to the Phils, to upgrade a weakness or should he keep him and use him out of the pen in the post-season?

  32. Chris

    February 26, 2011 11:20 AM

    Indeed, Scott. If the Phils stay healthy this year, the bats will be there.

  33. awh

    February 27, 2011 10:04 AM

    If you’ve forgotten, Blanton started the season as the #3 for the Phils in 2010, and as the #3 or #4 in 2009.

    He’s the best #5 in MLB because of the other 4, not because he hasn’t been a pretty good pitcher in the past.

    He would be the #3 on a lot of MLB teams.

  34. Marvin

    March 05, 2011 05:27 PM

    i’m sure there are some managers in the league wondering how you calculated the most optimal lineup. i dont think that pujols trade will happen just on a count of breaking up the phillies bonified leader, i’m not sure how that would settle in the minds of maybe a jimmy rollins.i recently read an article on espn’s website speaking of phil’s last season slump and there lack of ability to adjusting to the breaking ball. in my mind the phils suffered a lot of injuries last year and had a down year offensively. do you think major league pitching as finally found the phillie’s achilles heel?

Next ArticleAlbert Pujols Not a Fit in Philadelphia