FanGraphs Baseball

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  1. You mean batting Mike Jacobs clean-up is sub-optimal?

    You learn something new every day.

    Comment by J.P. — April 6, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

  2. Y’know, I remember on thing on one of the Brewers’ broadcasts last year where they had Doug Melvin in the booth, and they were talking about batting the pitcher 8th; I believe Macha had put Escobar in the #9 spot that day. Melvin said that studies have shown that batting the pitcher 8th improves the offense by 30 runs over the course of a season, or 3 wins. I thought, “That’s ridiculous, he must be misunderstanding; most studies have shown lineup optimization only makes a difference of about a win at the most over the course of the season.” Clearly, however, your quick and dirty methodology here suggests Melvin was just about right. Maybe there’s more to this than we’ve been giving credit.

    Comment by AlexPoterack — April 6, 2010 @ 2:12 pm

  3. One thing I learn last year: Minaya sucks

    Comment by kampfer — April 6, 2010 @ 2:12 pm

  4. Two small things:
    1) I’m guessing that either the Dodgers actual value is a run too low or the best is a run too high, because the numbers, as displayed, give a difference of -1.209.

    2) The Phillies difference comes out to -0.319, which would be the worst of the day. I’m not sure if the issue is with the actual value, the best value, or batting Rollins in the leadoff spot & Utley in the third spot.

    Comment by Brendan — April 6, 2010 @ 2:13 pm

  5. Its impressive how poor some of the AL offenses are, even optimized.

    Imagine if they had to have a pitcher hit for them.

    Comment by poodski — April 6, 2010 @ 2:19 pm

  6. What happens to the Cubs lineup when you re-run it with Zambrano’s hitting stats instead of an average pitcher’s?

    Comment by Scott — April 6, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

  7. Alex Cora leading off and GMJ hitting sixth was probably less than optimal as well.

    Comment by Schu — April 6, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

  8. Isn’t the lineup optimizer tool flawed because it relies on slugging, which uses inaccurate linear weights for singles, doubles, triples and home runs?

    Comment by Thank You Michael Lewis — April 6, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

  9. It also fails to account for Eric Chavez’s new 175-pound frame and Mediterranean porn star face.

    Comment by Choo — April 6, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

  10. While I find this quite interesting, I can’t help but think that’s the absence of baserunning significantly undermines the insight, given its significant role in managers’ decision to orient lineups as they do. Do we have a sense on the scope of the affect that baserunning ability would have?

    That said, I’d love to see debate between an old school manager (say, Dusty Baker) and a sabermetricians on the virtues of lineup construction approaches.

    Comment by Rick — April 6, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

  11. That Baseball Musings tool is decent, but doesn’t take into account interaction effects. Based on the opinions of others I trust, I’d recommend the the THT Markov tool that came with their annual a couple years ago, or http://lineupsimulator.com/

    Comment by Sky Kalkman — April 6, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

  12. If St. Louis’ line up is one of the worst optimized partially because they have their best hitter (Pujols) hitting third they how is the Twins lineup one of the most optimized with Joe Mauer (their best hitter) hitting 3rd?

    As a Twins fan I have always thought they should just have Joe bat second and move everyone behind him up a spot. However, now with Hudson in the 2nd spot it isn’t nearly as big of a deal as it was with Gomez/Punto/Casilla/etc…

    Comment by Patrick — April 6, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

  13. The Astros might be the worst team in the NL if Berkman were to miss the entire year. Maybe the Pirates will get lucky and Berkman won’t ever recover from his current knee injury.

    Comment by ogueth — April 6, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

  14. Texas had the best optimized lineup? Must have been a day-off for Wash on the drugs.

    Comment by Adam D — April 6, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

  15. I’d love to see that debate if it didn’t have as clueless and as stuck-in-his ways a manager as Baker.

    I’m sure there’s a manager out there who’s “old school” but still open minded.

    Comment by philkid3 — April 6, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

  16. It didn’t help the Cards’ lineup that La Russa also had Brendan Ryan, probably the team’s worst hitting position player, batting in the 2 hole as well. Even putting Ludwick or Holliday in the 2 spot would help Pujols batting behind him since there’s no way that Tony takes Albert out of the 3 hole.

    Comment by chuckb — April 6, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

  17. Ron Washington must have been up for days to get it that close.

    Comment by Sandy Kazmir — April 6, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

  18. I believe I ran those numbers once and Zambrano would indeed be best off hitting 9th.

    Comment by Steini's Famous Garbage Pitch — April 6, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

  19. Unfortunately wouldn’t matter when he doesn’t even make it to the plate. Oh well.

    Comment by BGP — April 6, 2010 @ 3:26 pm

  20. Dave: Unfortunately, the Baseball Musing lineup tool doesn’t work. Not even a little. What it does is create a “multiplier” for each lineup slot, based on historical data. But it keeps these multipliers constant, even as it allows you to experiment with non-traditional lineups. So OBP for the 8th place hitter has relatively little value, for example, because it’s often followed by the pitcher. Putting the pitcher there thus appears to be a great move, because the cost is low — but that’s because the model is essentially assuming the #9 hitter is still a pitcher! Which of course is no longer true.

    The model appears to be dynamic, but it’s really static. The #4 hitter’s SLG would still get a lot of weight, even if you put your three lowest OBP guys at the top of the lineup. Really, you just can’t rely on it for any analysis.

    Comment by Guy — April 6, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

  21. Why not include the Sunday night game?

    Comment by Tim — April 6, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

  22. I think Melvin overestimated at least a little. I am not sure any of this takes into account that pitchers will only bat about 2/3 of the time at most. They are usually replaced by a pinch hitter with the platoon advantage. Yes there is a little hit for pinch hitting but they are still far superior to a pitcher hitting.

    Comment by logan — April 6, 2010 @ 3:46 pm

  23. Every time I see that tool used I comment on this. That’s why it needs a “different model” for 1998-2002 to stay close. The Baseball Musings tool works as though it’s the lineup slot itself that’s important and not the specific other hitters in the lineup.

    Comment by aldimond — April 6, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

  24. Without adjusting for speed, park, handedness and a few other things, these numbers are nothing more than entertainment and are nothing to draw a serious conclusion from. It would also be nice to know what the variance is (margin of error) on the lineup tool.
    vr, Xei

    Comment by xeifrank — April 6, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

  25. He didn’t did he? I just checked, he did, and ahead of Jason Bay too. I sure will never complain about Jim Leyland batting Gerald Laird 7th while Scott Sizemore hit 8th after seeing that.

    Comment by TJ — April 6, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

  26. Because the pitcher batting 9th has much more of a negative effect on a #3 hitter than having a position player or DH batting 9th would.

    Comment by CHris — April 6, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

  27. That is true. Still, though, he’s much closer than I would’ve thought. I’m going to have to re-read this chapter of the Book when I get home and see what their methodology was again.

    Comment by AlexPoterack — April 6, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

  28. “Over 162 games that is 25 runs or 2.5 wins, a surprisingly high number to me.”

    Why even mention something this misleading when you linked the Sky Kalkman article that says it’s worth 2 runs per year?

    Comment by TheUntouchable — April 6, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

  29. http://images29.fotki.com/v1036/fileueUY/3f175/7/723557/4984932/dustybakerut4.jpg

    I’m not sure baker is the guy you want to discuss this with.

    Comment by hzl — April 6, 2010 @ 5:24 pm

  30. Thanks. Two typos, it is fixed now.

    Comment by Dave Allen — April 6, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

  31. Yeah CHONE projects Zambrano’s hitting stats too and I thought about using them. In the end I used the average pitcher’s to keep things consistent.

    Comment by Dave Allen — April 6, 2010 @ 5:44 pm

  32. Sky,

    Thanks for this. I was not aware of the limitations for BM’s tool.

    Comment by Dave Allen — April 6, 2010 @ 5:45 pm

  33. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I was not aware of the problem.

    Comment by Dave Allen — April 6, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

  34. Yeah that was based on faulty analysis. I apologize.

    Comment by Dave Allen — April 6, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

  35. Good to know how that works-it was confusing that every simulated line-up thought that the pitcher hitting 8th was the best. It makes little sense to put another quality hitter all the way down in the 9th spot because it suppresses their value.

    Comment by Bronnt — April 6, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

  36. Dave – When you used the tool, did you use platoon splits or overall #’s? (specifically against the handedness of the starter)

    Couple of issues (outside of the ones you’ve already mentioned):
    - perhaps not on opening day, but some managers will consider past history of a batter vs pitcher
    - The type of pitcher (power pitch, good curve, offspeed) vs known good fatsball hitte, curevball hitter etc may also lead to tweaks (this is probably a 2nd or 3rd order effect and probably not something you would see on opening day)

    I don’t understand your conclusion of hitting the pitcher 8th or 9th based on the difference between the Pirates and the rest of the NL. It may just be coincidence that it matches other modeled #’s… perhaps the rest of the Pirates lineup was just set more optimally or they have more similar type (grouped) hitters so you just don’t see much difference from the ‘optimum’.

    Comment by Hank — April 6, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

  37. Oops – sorry, I see you mentioned you ignored handedness (I saw the speed part, but must have just read right past the handedness) – however this would seem like a pretty big deal especially if you are going to go through this effort to throw support for the tool..

    Also noticed you updated the 8th vs 9th commentary.

    Comment by Hank — April 6, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

  38. In addition to that, it’s odd that every single manager is wrong. None of them picked the right lineup, even by luck. It can’t be the model that’s wrong, can it?

    Comment by MikeS — April 6, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

  39. MLB starting lineups. seems to be a valuable tool.

    Comment by joewein — April 7, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

  40. I really prefer the consistent approach as well.

    Comment by Joe Morgan — April 7, 2010 @ 8:28 pm

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