Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An Excercise in Optimizing Lineups...

I'm stealing this idea from Beyond the Boxscore but I don' think they are in any hurry to do this exercise with the Orioles so I'll do it here.

It's all about optimizing lineups, getting the most bang for your buck out of the players that you have. I think batting order is very overrated when it comes to run production (I think Sky at BtB has said the same thing) but it is interesting to see how unorthodox a lineup can look and, theoretically, score more runs per game.

Like BtB, I'll be using the standards found in The Book: Playing The Percentages in Baseball as well as David Pinto's lineup tool found at Baseball Musings.

Here are the main players for the Oriole lineup and their CHONE projections for OBA and SLG for 2009:

B. Roberts .359 .423
M. Mora .328 .414
N. Markakis .376 .474
A. Huff .354 .466
L. Scott .352 .462
A. Jones .337 .444
G. Zaun .313 .355
F. Pie .320 .407
C. Izturis .287 .326

Using the rules, the first step is to identify the top three hitters on the team. For the Orioles, that projects to be Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff. These guys will take up the top three spots in the lineup.

For leadoff, OBP is king. You also want the batter with the least power among those three elite hitters on the team. Speed is icing on the cake. Hello, Brian Roberts.

In the two hole, it's the best hitter between Huff and Markakis. This hitter comes to bat in more big situations than any other hitter in the lineup. #2 belongs to Nick.

Cleanup should be one of the best hitters on the team and the guy with power. This would be Huff. You could quibble that Markakis may have more raw power next season and you could swap the two without much argument from me. But Huff is #4 for now.

The next two best hitters on the team are Adam Jones and Luke Scott. More value is gained in the 5 slot with a batter who hits singles, doubles and triples rather than living and dying with the home run. Scott doesn't live and die with the homer but Jones is probably a more well-rounded hitter is this regard. Scott goes to #3 and Jones is #5.

Melvin Mora, Gregg Zaun, Felix Pie and Cesar Izturis are left. From here, the order goes from best hitter to worst with a caveat that if you have someone who can steal bases, they add some value in the 6 hole. Only Izturis is a fair stolen base threat at this point in his career but the bat is so bad that I don't think he will leverage that skill too often. Mora is the best of what's left, followed by Pie, Zaun and Izturis.

Your "optimized" 2009 Orioles lineup:

1 Roberts
2 Markakis
3 Scott
4 Huff
5 Jones
6 Mora
7 Pie
8 Zaun
9 Izturis

Plugging this information into the Lineup Optimization Tool, this lineup is estimated to score 4.885 runs per game. If you swap Huff and Markakis, the total is 4.879 so I was barely correct with Markakis in the 2 hole.

Pinto's best lineup? It scores 4.898 runs per game.

1 Roberts
2 Markakis
3 Jones
4 Huff
5 Scott
6 Pie
7 Zaun
8 Mora
9 Izturis

Mora and Pie, as well as Scott and Huff are interchangeable with the same production.

One wrinkle: what if we add Matt Wieters? Wieters' CHONE: .349 OBA and .439 SLG.

Wieters would fit in at the 5 slot and bump everybody down:

1. Roberts
2. Markakis
3. Scott
4. Huff
5. Wieters
6. Jones
7. Mora
8. Pie
9. Izturis

Just the addition of Wieters...brings the runs per game up to 5.031

Pinto adds this lineup for a runs per game of 5.041 moves Wieters to number three.

How about the run production for a "traditional" lineup?

1. Roberts
2. Mora
3. Markakis
4. Huff
5. Scott
6. Zaun
7. Jones
8. Pie
9. Izturis

This configuration gives you a runs per game of 4.857.

Swap Wieters in for Zaun in the 6 spot? That gets you 4.999 rns per game.

Difference in runs per game using The Book rules vs. the traditional approach: .028

The Book vs Pinto? Pinto wins by .013

The Book vs The Book with Wieters? Wieters improves the rate by .146 runs per game.

Traditional vs. Traditional with Wieters? Wieters adds .142 runs per game.

Conclusion? I would love to see a team try one of these non-traditional lineups sometime but as you can see, it matters little. I suppose it might let you win a game or two over the course of a season which could be a

But adding a better catcher? It improves jumps by at least a factor of 5.

So improving the actual members of the lineup means far more than the shuffling of said lineup. Go figure...

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