Using Ben Revere Optimally in the Lineup
I promise I’ll focus on some other players, as this is the third article on Ben Revere I’ve written recently, but he is personally the most intriguing player on the roster at the moment. The Phillies are giving him a breather for today’s series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates and will use him in the #8 slot tomorrow when the Phillies arrive in New York to play the Mets. That move, of course, is ripe for discourse and analysis and my initial reaction was that it is a bad idea to move Revere lower, particularly to the #8 spot, because his usefulness as a base runner is mitigated by weaker hitters who would be less likely to drive him in from second on a single, or from third on a sacrifice fly.
Inspired by a discussion with frequent commenter and friend of the blog @Yolacrary, though, I’ve changed my position on that. (With the caveat that, overall, optimizing a lineup doesn’t net you enough runs to truly be worth the hassle.) Tom Tango went over lineup optimization in The Book — a must-have for any of you Saber-inclined people who haven’t grabbed it yet — so I went back and read it again. The key point, as it pertains to base-stealing is:
…if you are going to steal second, you need to do this in front of a slap hitter: a hitter with few extra-base hits, few walks, and few strikeouts.
Using data from 2012-13, here are all the current Phillies players based on the relevant data:
I put (1-BB%-K%) and 1B% on a scatterplot.
The further towards the top right you go, the more ideal the hitter is to bat behind Ben Revere. The two outliers that you can see are Kevin Frandsen and Michael Young. Frandsen is a sparsely-used bench bat, and Young has been batting fifth for most of the season. Though Young has been an above-average hitter in the early going, he is not among the Phillies’ better hitters overall. The Book says about lineup optimization overall:
Your three best hitters should bat somewhere in the #1, #2, and #4 slots. Your fourth- and fifth-best hitters should occupy the #3 and #5 slots. From slot #6 through #9, put the players in descending order of quality.
Depending on how you value Young — ZiPS projected him to finish with the seventh-best wOBA among Phillies regulars — moving Revere to #7 and Young to #8 may be something worth an experiment. Certainly, though, I was wrong to think that Revere in either the #1 or #2 spot was optimal.
As mentioned before, though, lineup optimization nets you only a few extra runs. The Book estimates .02 runs per PA, which is a 1.4 run difference over 700 PA. Overall, in 162 games, you may gain around 10-15 runs.