Fun with Lineups

Todd Zolecki offers his best guess about Charlie Manuel‘s starting lineup on Opening Day, and it ain’t pretty:

1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Michael Young, 3B
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Delmon Young, RF
6. Domonic Brown/Darin Ruf/John Mayberry Jr., LF
7. Erik Kratz, C
8. Ben Revere, CF
9. Pitcher

Using Dan Szymborski’s (@DSzymborski) ZiPS projections and this lineup analysis tool from Baseball Musings, I decided to see how many runs that lineup is projected to score, and if any other lineup permutations would be preferable. Domonic Brown is assumed as the left fielder but I don’t think there would be a meaningful difference with the other two. The pitcher’s spot was assumed to be the average of all Phillies pitchers-as-hitters in 2012.

The above lineup, according to the lineup analysis tool, is expected to score 4.14 runs per game, or 671 in a full season. The 2012 Phillies averaged 4.22 runs per game and scored 684 in total, so it’s only a slight downgrade. The last time the Phillies scored 671 runs or fewer was 1997, when they finished 68-94. That team had three players out of ten (min. 200 PA) post a wOBA below the league average (.313): Rico Brogna, Kevin Stocker, and Ruben Amaro. Yes, that Ruben Amaro.

The best lineup would be:

1. Utley
2. Howard
3. M. Young
4. Brown
5. Rollins
6. D. Young
7. Kratz
8. Pitcher
9. Revere

That lineup follows some unconventional lineup tactics, such as putting one of your worse hitters in the #3 spot, hitting your pitcher eighth, and putting your best hitter first. Brown in the cleanup spot is likely also surprising, but ZiPS projects him to post a similar slugging percentage to Ryan Howard (.461 to .463) with a slightly higher average and on-base percentage.

According to the lineup analysis tool, the above batting order would score 4.33 runs per game, 701 over 162 games. That marks an improvement of 30 runs — roughly three wins — over the likely 2013 Opening Day lineup. ZiPS projects six players to post a wOBA below the 2012 league average (.311): Revere, M. Young, Freddy Galvis, Kevin Frandsen, Laynce Nix, and Mayberry.

The 2013 Phillies offense certainly won’t be confused with the 2007 iteration, which means they will — perhaps more than ever — be relying on their sterling starting rotation and upgraded bullpen to carry the load throughout the season. Utilizing platoons, making smart pinch-hitting and pinch-running decisions during games, and optimizing the lineup are all ways the Phillies can make small improvements that may add up to one large difference in the end… but don’t hold your breath.