July 23, 2010

Top Of The Order: Drew/Youkilis vs Scutaro/McDonald

With many players on the disabled list -- Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jason Varitek among them -- there has been some grumbling in comments and game threads about Terry Francona's lineups.

(I have tried to avoid doing it myself, and I believe I have been pretty successful. With our previous two managers, however, I was absolutely bat-shit insane about it. (L will corroborate this.) Learning more about lineup construction has helped me no longer act like a raving maniac, but I'll bet winning two World Series has had a greater impact. Like many things during the season, it simply does not stress me out anymore.)

Marco Scutaro has been the leadoff guy for most of the season (83 of 96 games) and Francona has been putting guys like Eric Patterson and Darnell McDonald in the #2 spot in the batting order. (After Pedroia's 66 games at #2, McDonald has 10 starts and Patterson has 8.)

Here is a typical Boston lineup, with each player's up-to-date 2010 on-base and slugging percentages.
           OBP   SLG
Scutaro .344 .379
McDonald .318 .393
Ortiz .370 .518
Youkilis .407 .569
Beltre .374 .554
Drew .353 .472
Cameron .340 .427
Hall .319 .426
Cash .244 .150
While the Red Sox are tied with the Yankees for the most runs scored with 510 and are second to New York with 5.31 runs per game, they are also seven games out of first place and four games back in the wild card race.

The team needs to score as many runs as possible. So why construct a lineup that insures that weak hitters come to the plate more often? This lineup has the 5th and 8th best OBPs at the top of the order. (Which is not as bad as a certain previous manager who saw nothing wrong with batting the #8 and #9 OBPs in the top spots, but it's still mildly annoying at the very least.) After that it makes pretty good sense: 3, 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, with the 3-1-2 guys also the top sluggers.

I played with the Lineup Analysis page at David Pinto's Baseball Musings and that typical lineup could be expected to score 5.15 runs per game. But what if Francona tweaked the order slightly?
           OBP   SLG
Scutaro .344 .379
Drew .353 .472
Ortiz .370 .518
Youkilis .407 .569
Beltre .374 .554
Cameron .340 .427
McDonald .318 .393
Hall .319 .426
Cash .244 .150
Drew batted #2 in 22 games last year and has done it five times this year, so it's not unheard of. McDonald gets bumped down between Cameron and Hall. These guys would generate 5.195 runs per game, an increase of .045 runs per game. Over the course of a 162-game season, that would be an additional 7.3 runs -- not even the equivalent of one additional win (+10 runs is generally seen as the equivalent of one win; and -10 = one loss).

What about this?
           OBP   SLG
Drew .353 .472
Youkilis .407 .569
Ortiz .370 .518
Beltre .374 .554
Cameron .340 .427
McDonald .318 .393
Scutaro .344 .379
Hall .319 .426
Cash .244 .150
Drew batted leadoff 14 times last season and while Youkilis has not batted second since August 2, 2008, he did it for 64 games in 2007.

Expected runs scored: 5.22 per game -- .07 more runs per game -- 11.34 additional runs per season. Batting Drew/Youkilis at the top of the order instead of Scutaro/McDonald would give the Red Sox approximately one additional win in the standings at the end of the year.

The best lineup with these nine players?
           OBP   SLG
Youkilis .407 .569
Beltre .374 .554
Cameron .340 .427
Ortiz .370 .518
Drew .353 .472
McDonald .318 .393
Scutaro .344 .379
Hall .319 .426
Cash .244 .150
5.23 runs per game, barely better than the last lineup. Again, it would amount to one additional win -- which could be the difference between making the playoffs or not, but it would also stir up a bunch of other issues, like dealing with the backlash over batting Mike Cameron third.

And for the curious, this configuration is the worst. Only 4.75 runs per game. At 64.8 fewer runs per season than our original lineup, this abomination would cost the Sox 6-7 wins.
           OBP   SLG
Hall .319 .426
Cash .244 .150
Cameron .340 .427
McDonald .318 .393
Scutaro .344 .379
Youkilis .407 .569
Ortiz .370 .518
Drew .353 .472
Beltre .374 .554

10 comments:

tim said...

I like the look of the Drew/Yook 1-2.

But, I guess a big part of it is the mentality of the players and being comfortable in certain spots, and you always hear about "protection" for the middle of the order guys, which could contribute to them getting better pitches to hit, resulting in higher OBP/SLG, meaning if they are moved up to the top of the order, they don't hit as well.

Fuck, LBJ, just stop being hurt so we don't have this issue!

redsock said...

This is obviously not an exact science or a carved-in-granite declaration of what *would* happen with these actual 9 men batting in whatever order for six months. But I'm assuming I did not have to specifically note that.

L-girl said...

(L will corroborate this.)

I corroborate this.

Angry Steve said...

Fuck, LBJ, just stop being hurt so we don't have this issue!

agreed

Zenslinger said...

I like DJ Drew at #2.

redsock said...

i like DJ Drew at #2

So do I.

Michael Holloway said...

Youkilis I like in either 1 or 2. I understand Youkilis has a magnificent SLG% so you don't want to put him at the plate with no one on, but that only happens inexorably once a game. Putting a .300 hitter like McDonald or even Scutaro in the nine spot really changes that algorithm through nine innings.

The other thing is, how is Youkilis on the base paths? Some runners see the game better than others, they move 1st to 3rd on the pop of the bat, they read fly balls better, they have a feel for the base running game, they read throws better, they cause the other team to make errors. Youkilis is that kind of player I believe.

redsock said...

The other thing is, how is Youkilis on the base paths? ... Youkilis is that kind of player I believe.

I really don't know. I don't think he is a moron, but I don't think he's anything special either.

He takes the extra base -- more than 1 base on a single, more than 2 on a double -- 55% of the time. The AL average is 40%. Boston as a team is 38%.

(Random players: Ichiro takes the extra base 44% of the time, Jeter only 30%.)

Yook has been on first 23 times this year when a single was hit. He went to 2nd 11 times and he went to third/scored 11 times.

(Going to 3rd/home 11 times ties him for the AL lead, but players who have more opportunities will presumably do it more often.)

He has been on first 14 times when a double was hit. He went to third 7 times and he scored 6 times.

He has been on second 14 times when a single was hit. He went to third 2 times and scored 11 times.

(Those # do not add up, so I guess he was also thrown out somehow on the bases in each situation.)

redsock said...

As far as AL teams go, TB is #1, taking the extra bae 47% of the time. The Yankees are dead last at 35%.

MLB: Rockies are #1 at 49%, with the Rays second. Only the Nats and Snakes are worse than the Yanks.

Red Sox are 9th in the AL and 20th in MLB.

Michael Holloway said...

Wow. Nice research.

These days with Sabre metrics I guess what one 'believes' just doesn't cut it - you have to do the math.

Well, thanks for doing the math.

"He takes the extra base -- more than 1 base on a single, more than 2 on a double -- 55% of the time. The AL average is 40%. Boston as a team is 38%."

That sums it up I THINK, Boston is one of the better teams at moving them over and getting 'em in...

As I write Boston is 4th in hits and 2nd in runs plated - and although there are many ways to interpret that, I think is shows they are efficient base runners. So, if Yook is taking the extra base 15% more often than his team, then that shows he must be the right guy for the top of the order.

Another thing, does he like batting 1 or 2? Will he excel up there?

An then there's reality: Boston is 7-3 of late, and I see Yook has hitting in the three spot ... I must be wrong.