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.

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39 comments

  1. Nik

    January 29, 2013 11:37 AM

    Why are you not including Chooch’s numbers when extrapolating the full season totals.

  2. Bill Baer

    January 29, 2013 11:42 AM

    Ah, yeah, I forgot that.

    ZiPS has Ruiz with a .340 wOBA and Kratz with .312. 1.245 is the wOBA scale.

    ( ( .340 – .312 ) / 1.245 ) * 120 = 2.7

    I assumed 120 games for Ruiz since he wouldn’t be playing every day the rest of the season. Add another three runs to the total. So 704 instead of 701.

  3. Nik

    January 29, 2013 11:52 AM

    Meh, that’s the problem with these projections, there is no sane person that would tell you that the difference between 5/6 of a season of Ruiz and Kratz is only 2.7 runs.

  4. Bill Baer

    January 29, 2013 11:58 AM

    Well, the general perception of Ruiz is probably a bit biased by his ridiculously good 2012 (.398 wOBA). His career average is .340.

    Also, because baseball deals with whole numbers and not decimals, it’s hard to visualize the difference as only three runs. But consider that every run created is credited to multiple people/things: runners on base, the opposing pitcher and defense (debit), randomness, and finally, the hitter himself.

  5. Scott G

    January 29, 2013 12:09 PM

    I like lineup optimization. I think Manuel’s head would explode if he saw the optimum lineup.

  6. ColonelTom

    January 29, 2013 12:09 PM

    RE: the “with Chooch” numbers, putting Chooch in the #7 slot would be perhaps the worst place to put him, since he’s an OBP-heavy guy being followed by Revere and the pitcher.

    Alas, I suspect that’s exactly where he’ll hit in Cholly’s lineup.

  7. ColonelTom

    January 29, 2013 12:11 PM

    Out of curiosity, how does flipping Delmon and Chooch in the lineup affect the results? I’m figuring that’s a larger difference than swapping out Kratz for Chooch.

  8. Jay

    January 29, 2013 01:12 PM

    So, this only further supports that Amaro dropped the ball in not getting an impact bat. He panicked and traded 2 top trade chips for a CF…who you’r saying should bat 9th! I don’t care if he’s the second coming of Andruw Jones in CF (with no arm)…how was he worth that? Especially when Justin Upton became available…and the Angels have too many OF’s…I just don’t get Revere for a second.

  9. Phillie697

    January 29, 2013 01:34 PM

    @Scott G,

    I’ll take Manuel not giving games away with his puzzling in-game decisions than him understanding the optimized lineup.

  10. Phillie697

    January 29, 2013 01:44 PM

    @Jay,

    It wasn’t the best of moves, but it wasn’t completely terrible, because Revere is about as good as it gets in CF defense and he’s still young to boot. But yeah, giving up Worley hurt, and I seem to remember being the only person saying that we should go after J. Upton hard even before the Revere trade, with everyone saying that’s never going to happen. In retrospect, maybe I was right after all.

  11. hk

    January 29, 2013 02:08 PM

    The problem that I have with lineup optimization is that it is based on past data, most of which was accumulated with managers sub-optimally filling out their lineup cards. For instance, most of the lineup optimization devalues the 3-hole because the clean-up hitter and the 5-hole hitter bat more often with men on base than the 3-hole hitter. However, if managers began batting their top 2 OBP guys 1st and 2nd, this would change.

  12. joecatz

    January 29, 2013 02:14 PM

    I actually think Revere SHOULD bat 9th in any lineup. the 8 spot gets approximately 20 more ABs total over the course of a 162 game season. batting revere 9th essentially turns the 8 spot into the 9 spot after the first inning and eliminates all kinds of double switch and sacrifice bunt situations. its the ideal place to bat him. Especially when you have two SP in Hamels and Lee who are pretty good with the bat to begin with.

  13. Kevin

    January 29, 2013 03:15 PM

    What is the record for two teammates grounding into double plays? The Youngs had 46 cumulatively last year. The only saving grace is that Amaro has built a line up of much lower OBP hitters than the (successful) 2012 Tigers and Rangers. They’ll probably have fewer opportunities for GIDP this season. Maybe that’s something Amaro was thinking about?

  14. Scott G

    January 29, 2013 03:20 PM

    Phillie,

    Why should we have to concede any sort of improved managing? By the way, a lot of his puzzling in game management could be solved by not batting Utley and Howard back to back (or Howard at all when there’s a lefty pitching).

    joecatz,

    If the 8th spot gets 20 more ABs than the 9th each season, wouldn’t that INCREASE the amount of double switch situations? Double switching is done to prevent the pitcher’s spot from coming up in the following inning, and if the pitcher’s spot was due up more often, then I think you’d see more double switches.

  15. Pencilfish

    January 29, 2013 04:34 PM

    Have you tried Ruf instead of DY in the permutations?

  16. Cutter

    January 29, 2013 04:40 PM

    I’ve wanted Utley to bat leadoff for a couple of years now.

    Naturally, it will never happen.

  17. LTG

    January 29, 2013 05:44 PM

    Isn’t the 2-hole where you want your best hitter, or at least the guy who combines on-base skills with some pop?

  18. Mike

    January 29, 2013 06:28 PM

    i know hes probably never done it, but would anyone be against Dom Brown leading off? I mean I don’t think Charlie would do it, but he seems like a good candidate, on the surface. It seems like hes the more patient at the plate than anyone else is on the team. I don’t have any numbers to back it up, but I sort of like the idea of it.

  19. Phillie697

    January 29, 2013 08:21 PM

    @Scott G,

    Because Cholly is an old man. Old men don’t learn very many new tricks. Or in his case, at all.

  20. Phillie697

    January 29, 2013 08:28 PM

    @LTG,

    I’d pay ARod $6M this season to be our 3B. Of course, if RAJ had a chance to sign him, it’ll be more like $60M.

  21. LTG

    January 29, 2013 10:28 PM

    A-Rod probably won’t have a season this season, so I’d rather not be committed to paying him anything. But, yeah, he’s worth it at a reasonable price, but not the price RAJ would rush to pay him.

  22. Joecatz

    January 30, 2013 06:20 AM

    Scott,

    No, it wouldn’t. Anytime the double switch would be in effect for the 8 hitter, they’d also double switch if the pitcher was hitting ninth.

  23. Scott G

    January 30, 2013 06:36 AM

    So how would that reduce double switches like you said originally? And if the pitcher’s spot is getting more PA (with the additional PA being late in games), how would that not increase the likelihood of increased double switch situations?

  24. BobSmith77

    January 30, 2013 12:33 PM

    I wish I could take an individual prop bet on Brown slugging under .463 this year. That would be like free money.

  25. Phillie697

    January 30, 2013 02:01 PM

    @BobSmith77,

    Change that to .430 and I’ll take that bet :) That .461 figure has got to take into account that he’ll develop as he get closer to his peak age, but a .430 would be in line with numbers from last year (no freaking way his BABIP stay at .260 if he gets significant playing time). Of course, Douchbag Young may put a wrecking ball to all of that.

  26. Shawn

    January 30, 2013 02:21 PM

    The Phillies will be horrible this year! I say they win 63 games.. and I am a die hard fan! RAJ has done nothing to make this team better!

  27. Joecatz

    January 30, 2013 02:24 PM

    Scott, late in the game, anytime you would double switch for the 8 spot in the lineup you would also do it for the nine spot, because 9 is after 8.

    It probably doesn’t reduce double switches actually, but it would not increase them.

  28. Scott G

    January 30, 2013 02:54 PM

    This is probably very petty of me, but I really don’t think that’s a true statement. If the 8-1 are due up the next inning, you’d double switch for either 8 or 9. If the 7-9 are due up, you’d double switch for either 8 or 9, but if 6-8 are due up, you’d only double switch for 8 but not 9.

    Maybe my “batters due up” numbers are off slightly, but there will be a point where the fact that the 8th batter gets up more often than the 9th would mean that the 9th spot wouldn’t be in a position to be double switched for.

  29. Phillie697

    January 30, 2013 03:16 PM

    @Scott,

    I think what he is saying is that if the pitcher is batting 9th, then if you would pinch hit the 8th guy because of double switch, then it’s likely you’re gonna pinch hit for the pitcher, whereas if the pitcher is batting 8th, then that doesn’t necessary hold up, since whereas you won’t think twice about pinch hitting the pitcher, you’d think twice about pinch hitting for revere. I think that’s really much ado about nothing, because the two analysis are totally different; it’s like comparing apples and oranges, because in one scenario you’re pinch hitting the 8th guy because of L/R splits, whereas the second scenario, you’re pinching hitting the 8th guy simply because it’s, well, the pitcher.

  30. Pmonge

    January 30, 2013 05:23 PM

    @nik, i assume you are a woman? because what man says “meh”

  31. LTG

    January 30, 2013 05:28 PM

    Le silence eternel des ces espaces infinis m’e(h)ffraie.

  32. Phillie697

    January 30, 2013 05:35 PM

    Je ne parle pas francaise.

  33. LTG

    January 30, 2013 05:53 PM

    C’est vrai?

  34. Phillie697

    January 30, 2013 10:36 PM

    Tres.

  35. LTG

    January 30, 2013 11:23 PM

    Je suis desole. The quote is from Pascal’s Pensees and reads, “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me.” But in English I lose the pun in “m’effraie”.

  36. Phillie697

    January 30, 2013 11:30 PM

    Yeah, I Google translated it :) But I took 5 years of French in high school, so that’s about the extent of my knowledge of French.

  37. Scott G

    January 31, 2013 10:54 AM

    Phillie,

    I’m having a very hard time deciphering what you’re trying to say in the pinch hit post. I think it has a lot to do with you saying “pinch hit the 8th batter” when I believe it should read “pinch hit FOR the 8th batter”.

    I understand if you don’t want to talk about this anymore because it seems completely irrelevant, but I don’t like to drop things until I at least understand the argument(?) against me.

  38. Phillie697

    January 31, 2013 12:42 PM

    @Scott,

    I didn’t realize I was arguing against you :) I was agreeing with you that joecatz’s conclusion was somewhat flawed.

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