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  1. The notion that when Gordon gets on he will just steal second and then get bunted to third just doesn’t make any sense. You give the pitcher the red light, everyone knows Gordon is running, and then ask him to bunt with 1 or 2 strikes? Speed is best suited in front of singles hitters, it is almost negated in front of someone who gives themselves up. Having said all that, Gordon should be nowhere near the lead off spot with a .265 OBP, and I would argue that he shouldn’t be in the Major League.

    Comment by Thomas Grantham — May 4, 2012 @ 9:12 am

  2. Isn’t this is just a specific case of the flawed received wisdom that you should put speedy guys in front of power guys?

    Better to put speedy guys ahead of singles hitters.

    Comment by Aaron (UK) — May 4, 2012 @ 9:12 am

  3. What makes you think that Ellis is still going to have a .390 OBP in the leadoff spot?

    Hitting leadoff is tough, and most players perform worse in that spot.

    Comment by Synovia — May 4, 2012 @ 9:42 am

  4. That’s a good point. Furthermore, I assume the #8 hitter will get pitched around more frequently with one or two outs than he will with zero outs, and the SB/bunt/groundout sequence only results in a run if it begins with zero outs.

    On the other hand, Gordon can’t help but walk more if he’s batting 8th, and regardless of the tactics utilized when the pitcher comes up (bunting vs. taking vs. swinging away), his speed is infinitely more valuable when he’s standing on first than when he’s walking back to the dugout.

    Comment by mcbrown — May 4, 2012 @ 9:44 am

  5. When Ellis finally develops some power, should they move him to hit behind Kemp?

    Comment by Al — May 4, 2012 @ 9:59 am

  6. Further, the # of times per season that Gordon leads off an inning from the 8 spot (~50), followed by getting on base (down to 15), and a successful sacrifice (say, 8), followed by a scoring grounder or sac fly (maybe 4), makes that a pretty negligible benefit.

    Comment by Zach — May 4, 2012 @ 10:29 am

  7. Who said anything about .390? Per the article, Ellis is currently projected to OBP .372 the rest of the way, which is fine for the top of the order. Even if he turns out worse than that, he’s virtually guaranteed to have a higher OBP than Gordon.

    Comment by Ian R. — May 4, 2012 @ 10:30 am

  8. If Gordon gets on with two outs and the pitcher up, he’s not stealing. That means he’s not utilizing his best offensive attribute. Bat him 7th.

    Comment by RMD — May 4, 2012 @ 10:44 am

  9. He’s going to be a hell of a lot better than Gordon if his OBP is .330. There’s really not an argument to be made that Gordon is a better lead off man.

    Comment by philosofool — May 4, 2012 @ 11:02 am

  10. Not if their lead off man has a .260 OBP. The basic principle of line up construction should be “get the most at bats for your best hitters.” The concern about chaining hitters to complement weighs far too heavily when it defeats this principle.

    A basic line up in descending wOBA order would be close to optimal. After that, there are a few tweaks worth making, but they won’t do you nearly as much good as getting a terrible hitter out of the lead-off spot (or second, as is fairly common.)

    Comment by philosofool — May 4, 2012 @ 11:08 am

  11. Dee Gordon is batting first
    Ellis is battng 8th

    Comment by hoopsvader — May 4, 2012 @ 11:32 am

  12. Someone forward the same idea to the Scosciapath, who is batting Vernon Wells second since Trout’s call up.

    Comment by Feeding the Abscess — May 4, 2012 @ 11:37 am

  13. He jus turned 31… I think he probably has as much power as you’re ever going to see out of him. And if there is improvement, I wouldn’t expect it to really be of much significance. He is what he is at this point, it’s just nice to see him finally get a shot.

    Comment by Justin — May 4, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

  14. he’s letting vernon wells clear the bases with double plays so that albert can come up with no one on, take some of the pressure off. Strategy!

    Comment by pastadiving jeter — May 4, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

  15. Per my own research here, it seems unlikely he’ll ever develop power

    Comment by Eric Seidman — May 4, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

  16. This is fascinating. Thank you.

    Comment by Al — May 4, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

  17. You got it

    Comment by Eric Seidman — May 4, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

  18. This is what makes me think AJ will continue to have an extremely high OBP:,a

    He swings at fewer pitches than anyone in baseball. He swings at fewer pitches outside of the zone than all but 3 players. And he makes very consistent contact, especially on those few occasions when he does get fooled and swing at pitches outside the zone. He’s never gonna be Matt Kemp, but dude can defintely get to first base.

    For some extra AJ Ellis fun, check out

    Comment by Dave — May 4, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

  19. I’m about as big an AJ Ellis fan as you’ll find anywhere outside his immediate family, and even I don’t expect him to develop much power. I’m as shocked that he has 2 home runs already as I am that Pujols has none.

    Comment by Dave — May 4, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

  20. Dodger fans want Gordon batting leadoff for a few reasons

    1) because when Gordon is on base he “distracts the pitcher” leading to greater success for the batters at the plate. I would love to see this theory squashed or marginalized by some stats.

    2) Gordon needs to as many ABs as possible to develop into the future stat he can be……..ugh

    and well….that’s pretty much it. Once you can reason with a Dodger fan into agreeing that OBP is important for the top of the lineup, these two reasons are still thrown out there to justify batting Gordon leadoff.

    Comment by Table — May 4, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

  21. Wow I goofed that second point. Scratch the “to” and replace “stat” with “star”

    Comment by Table — May 4, 2012 @ 1:59 pm

  22. yep

    Comment by Table — May 4, 2012 @ 2:00 pm

  23. We knew what you meant ;-)

    Comment by Eric Seidman — May 4, 2012 @ 2:01 pm

  24. In other news

    Ethier should bat second

    Kemp should bat 4th

    and Gwynn and Rivera should be in a straight platoon.

    Comment by Table — May 4, 2012 @ 2:01 pm

  25. Gordon or AJ leading off?

    I used the ZIPs (U) for input projections for both Dee Gordon and AJ Ellis, giving Dee one of my top speed ratings and AJ one of my lowest. Batted them 1st/8th against LHP and RHP (4 sims) – with each sim ran 100K times.

    Result was.

    vs RHP, Dee(1), AJ(8) got 0.79 more wins per 162 games.
    vs LHP, AJ(1), Dee(8) got 0.59 more wins per 162 games.

    I think the ZIPs(U) favors Dee a little as they regress towards their pre-season projections pretty heavily. But these were the results nonetheless. Both players will regress, so you pretty much have to go with ZIPs(U) instead of actual empirical 2012 results as your data input.

    Comment by Xeifrank — May 4, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

  26. “Batted them 1st/8th against LHP and RHP (4 sims) – with each sim ran 100K times.”

    Could you better explain this, and your simulator in general?

    Comment by Table — May 4, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

  27. Interesting but I’m personally leery of running simulations on guys like this when there is so much unknown about their skill sets and abilities against different pitchers. Their current ZiPS(U)’s also clearly favor Ellis — unless we’re looking at something different, Ellis has a ZiPS(U) wOBA of .335 compared to Gordon’s .282. I don’t see any possible scenario in which Gordon is a better offensive player now or over the rest of the season, regardless of the input choice. Even looking at pre-season projections, Ellis was around 15 points better in wOBA.

    In a case like this, I am more wont to trust the skills that have seemingly been established, which is that Ellis is an OBP machine and Gordon is the exact opposite. I wouldn’t lead Ellis off, but would probably bat him second to best utilize his primary skill.

    Comment by Eric Seidman — May 4, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

  28. Sure, I’ll try.

    Four scenarios.
    Lineup A: Gordon bats 1st, AJ Ellis bats 8th vs RHP
    Lineup B: AJ Ellis bats 1st, Gordon bats 8th vs RHP
    Lineup C: Gordon bats 1st, AJ Ellis bats 8th vs LHP
    Lineup D: AJ Ellis bats 1st, Gordon bats 8th vs LHP

    rest of lineup stays the same 2-7, 9. Opposing team stays constant just the handedness of their pitcher changes. I had Dodgers be the Away team as to give them 9 gauranteed at bats per game, which makes the results come out cleaner.

    Simulator plays actual games and takes in to consideration all the important things you can think of.

    Comment by Xeifrank — May 4, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

  29. Shhh! Mattingly might read this and actually do it.
    Let sleeping Dodgers lie.

    Comment by Baltar — May 4, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

  30. “While the overall effects of lineup optimization are negligible over the course of the season, effectively swapping Ellis and Gordon will help increase their scoring output…”


    Anyway, I’d rather see Gordon bat 6th, after the power guys and ahead of the Loneys and Ellis’s who aren’t going to get XBH – his speed will be most useful there, I think, and the detrimental effects of batting a low-OBP guy 6th vs. 8th are extremely small.

    Comment by J.D. KaPow — May 4, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

  31. Eric, I would be happy to run it with YOUR set of projections. Give me a per 600 AB projection for Gordon and A.Ellis with the following stats.


    Comment by Xeifrank — May 4, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

  32. I was getting at the notion that, while lineup optimization doesn’t typically amount to much, this has the makings of an extreme case, where you would be replacing a sub-.300 OBP guy with a ~.375 OBP guy, batting in front of a guy having an MVP-type season.

    Comment by Eric Seidman — May 4, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

  33. I don’t think it’s necessary to run simulations here, as I just said, because to the extent that the inputs are really telling, we don’t know enough about their tendencies. I don’t think you need a simulation to know that someone with an 80+ point OBP advantage over someone else, batting in front of someone as tremendous as Kemp, is beneficial to the team.

    Comment by Eric Seidman — May 4, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

  34. You need input data (projections) to even analyze the problem and you need a tool to quantify what the advantage is if any. Otherwise, you are just spitting in the wind here.

    Of course projections are never perfect, so you build around a certain confidence level.

    Comment by Xeifrank — May 4, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

  35. How many extra runs per season would you get out of this?

    Comment by Xeifrank — May 4, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

  36. I believe at the Book Blog they say that lineup optimization is 2-3 runs in an average case. If you call this “extreme”, pushing it to 5 runs could be justifiable as an upper bound (if Kemp is a monster, Ethier keeps hitting, etc).

    So about half a win over 162 games.

    Comment by CJ — May 4, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

  37. Xeifrank I’ve plugged in the ZIPS projections for Ellis and Gordon using other lineup simulators than yours and switching Ellis and Gordon in the order improved the Dodgers run scoring from 3.47 to 3.53 runs per game. or 6.5 runs over 162 games. I strongly believe your simulation system is inherently flawed. Earlier in the year MSTI posted a link to the optimized Dodger lineup you proposed. It was also full of errors.

    Comment by Table — May 5, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

  38. Yeah one simulator I used said the change would produce 6.5 runs…so yeah a little more than 1/2 a win….

    Comment by Table — May 5, 2012 @ 4:16 pm

  39. Putting Gordon at 8th might kick his butt into working harder. He’ll make a good leadoff hitter someday. But not as long as he thinks everyone is OK with his current stats, which is the feedback he is currently getting as the leadoff hitter.
    The “taking off the catcher’s crap to bat” logistics occur at least once a game with Ellis leading off. That’s probably keeping him 8th. Not saying it’s right. Just saying it’s the reasoning.

    Comment by SOB in TO — May 5, 2012 @ 7:32 pm

  40. Who’s gonna protect Kemp? The corpse of James Loney?

    Comment by Shaun Catron — May 6, 2012 @ 12:53 am

  41. Whether or not Mattingly subscribes to OBP, Gordon’s average will stay in the 230-250 range, which nobody can overlook, sabermetrically inclined or not. Eventually the move will be made, and with every passing game I scoff at the fact that AJ Ellis is batting 8th. At the very least he should be switched with his evil step-brother Mark Ellis in the 2-hole.

    Comment by Ash — May 6, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

  42. Table, any method that does not take in to account handedness of opposing starting pitcher is badly flawed. Any method that does not take in to account the speed of the batters is badly flawed. Doesn’t sound like you have done either from your publishings.

    Comment by Xeifrank — May 7, 2012 @ 4:23 am

  43. No. Kemp should not bat 4th. There is an argument that Kemp should bat 2nd. That said, 3rd is where he should bat traditionally.

    Comment by AA — May 8, 2012 @ 1:40 am

  44. Not only should AJ Ellis be hitting first or second, but I think Gordon should be hitting Ninth – especially in games where Kershaw and Billingsley are playing.

    Comment by AA — May 8, 2012 @ 1:46 am

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