Thursday, March 16, 2006
In George Will’s Men At Work Tony La Russa stated that he liked to scatter hitters thru the lineup without constructing a sort of “murderers row”, which would leave the rest of his lineup in trouble. Regression analysis conducted by various baseball writers have a more sophisticated take on the subject. The Book, the new book from Tangotiger and MGL, states that the two best hitters should bat 1,2 in your lineup, etc. Essentially, you should bat them in order of quality, but flip the #3 and #4 guys.
The topic of where to bat Phillies was on the mind of Beerleaguer’s Jason Weitzel, whose comment that the Phils decision to bat Mike Lieberthal and David Bell back-to-back killed their chances of scoring runs in 1/3 of the Phillies innings because Bell & Lieberthal had become a black hole in the Phillies lineup. Jason’s analysis even got on Daily News Live.
Dave Pinto put a lineup utilization feature on his blog. I punched in the Phils stats and here is what I came up with:
GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
Here are the results.
The Phillies, from what I understand, intend to have the batting order look like this is 2006:
Jimmy Rollins leading off with Abreu batting cleanup. Jimmy Rollins won the leadoff slot after Marlon Byrd fell on hard times and got dealt to the Nats. Despite his 36-game hitting streak I'm not a huge fan of Jimmy leading off: his .338 OBP isn't high enough for my taste. I'd love to see Bobby leading off (.405 OBP, plus speed: 31 steals in 40 attempts, comparable to J.Roll's 41 in 47), but he's made it clear he hates that idea. That's a pity: Bobby has a lot of pop in his bat and might do more damage rattling pitchers with a lead-off double or home run. (62 extra-base hits in 2005.)
The sight of Bell and Lieberthal batting together above the pitcher is a horrible sight. Jason is right: the Phillies might as well kiss off 3 out of every 9 innings because there is no way Lieberthal and Bell are going to produce runs. The Phils might be better sending Bell up to the two slot (hear me out!), where he hit .400 (6 for 15) in 2004. Maybe David will see better pitches with the meat of the Phillies order sitting behind him. Either way, the Phils need to break these two apart.
I'd like to see Pat Burrell or Chase Utley hitting between them. I think Pat and Chase have established themselves as dangerous hitters and they could protect the lower half of the lineup. I'd keep Ryan Howard batting higher up, mix him in with the big bats to make sure he sees good pitches and keeps building his confidence from 2005.
Here is my ideal lineup:
Bobby and Aaron can get on base, then Ryan and Chase and Pat have opportunities to bat them home. Slip J.Roll in at the bottom to give the lower part of the lineup some speed and give the Phillies some baserunners in the lower half of the order.
Part II of my Season Preview series will be published Monday.
The thinking is the need for speed at the top of the lineup, but all the speed in the world doesn't help when you can't get on base. Typically we'll have our #3 hitter coming up in the first inning with 2 outs, nobody on. Throw in having poor OBPs at the #s 7-9 spots, and you've got a "suicide row" in which there is basically zero chance of getting a lot of runs.
Granted, having Utley, Burrell, Howard, Abreu all in a row is a deadly lineup, but the OBP weakness of the remaining lineup will make for a lot of 1-2-3 innings in between our best hitters.
I thought it might be fun this year to create a group of five blogs, one from each of the NL East teams. Each would cross advertise the others, and offer insight about their team to the other blogs. For instance, when the Phillies play the Nationals, I would provide you in-depth information about my team, injuries, rookies that might be new to Phillies fans, etc.
You are the first person I've contacted. I love your writing and the way you cover the Phillies. I'm trying to gather a group of writers who are unafraid to use the English language properly! Would you consider representing the Phillies in this NL East blog group?
Please visit my sites to see if you think we might be able to work together (use your IE explorer, for some reason, Mozilla and the other "off brand" browsers don't display the site properly):
Minor league site (it'll be ready April 1 but it'll give you the idea):
Life is too busy to be experts on all the teams; wouldn't it be great to have guest writers to help better understand our NL East rivals?
I'm not out to make any money, but if this is done right, we might be able to pay for a "toy" or two.
Let me know if your interested, Regardless, I will continue to read your blog -- it really is very, very good.
I think the Phils need to bat J.Roll lower: his OBP isn't great and maybe his speed could help Bell and Lieberthal a little with hit-and-runs or threatening to steal.
There no way to avoid the clubhouse politics of lineup assembly, the act of rewarding your best hitters with good spots in the lineup. You're not going to have the pitcher hitting anywhere but 9th. This is fine with me because the lineup they ended with was very good, producing great seasons by Burrell and Utley, and a breakout rookie year by Howard. When it was finished, they had three hitters with 100 RBIs, even with a leadoff hitter that slumped most of the year.
I love the site; keep up the good work.