Optimizing the Reds Lineup By The Book

Sky Kalkman over at Beyond the Boxscore has been talking a lot lately about building lineups going strictly by The Book.  Not the Old-School, Dusty Baker, Manufacturing Runs and Causing Havoc Book, but this Book.  He does all the exegesis in his article, so I'll let you pop on over there to read it rather than explaining here again.  You can also check out a few of the teams that have already been done to get a better handle on what exactly is going on here. 

Anyway, Sky would like a database of each of the teams over at BtB, so I figured I could handle putting this together for our Reds.

First off, we need projected stats for '09.  CHONE's numbers will work just fine here.

Player R150 AVG OBP  SLG
Joey Votto 9 .285
.365 .494
Edwin Encarnacion 8 .281 .360 .485
Jay Bruce 4 .276
.334 .509
Ramon Hernandez -7 .266 .332 .435
Brandon Phillips -9 .271 .325 .455
Chris Dickerson -15
.238 .330
.419
Alex Gonzalez -17 .258
.312 .410
Willy Taveras -22 .273 .328 .341
Jonny Gomes
7 .255 .357 .507

 

(Only 3 of our regulars project to be above average?  Cripes.)

Since we will most likely have a platoon in LF with Dickerson and Gomes, we'll have two different lineups to project here (and it looks like they will be pretty different).  They are sorted from best to worst according to offensive runs created above average per 150 games (R150), with Gomes tacked on at the bottom there. 

So, let's get to setting these guys in a batting order.  Our top 3 hitters are Votto, EdE, and Bruce, so they go in the #1, #2, and #4 spots.  According to The Book, the leadoff guy should be the one of these three who is least reliant on home runs.  EdE and Votto are pretty much identical according to CHONE, but I think Votto is going to hit with more power than both this projection and EdE.  Normally you'd put a speedy guy (like Taveras) here, but as The Book explains, stolen bases don't matter a whole lot in front of the big boppers who are going to come up 2-3-4-5.  So while Votto has decent speed and EdE is a bit of a clunker on the bases, we'll stiill put EdE in the leadoff spot, giving slightly more credence to Votto's power.

the old-schoolers would put a slappy bat-control guy (Gonzalez) in the 2 hole, but The Book says it should be the best overall hitter on the team.  You want OBP here, and Votto is the best guy on the team in that department.  But honestly, you could probably flip EdE and Votto in the 1 and 2 slots and it wouldn't make much difference.  Hooray for roster flexibility!

That leaves Bruce for the 4 slot.  old-schoolers would say the big power bat goes here to hit those big 3-run-homers, and they're actually kinda right.  You want the one of your top 3 hitters with the best power in the 4 spot, and that is Jay Bruce.

Now the #3 and #5 slots are next.  Old-schoolers would have their best high-average hitter in the #3 hole (like Ken Griffey Jr) so he could drive in the lead-off guy after he was sac'd to 2B.  But The Book actually says the #5 slot is MORE important than the #3 slot, because the #3 guy comes to bat more often with 2 outs.  And they come to bat more often with fewer runners on base than the #4 and #5 guys.  So you want your #5 guy to be the better hitter.  UNLESS he is a homer-heavy kinda hitter.  These two slots are between Hernandez and Phillips, and since Hernandez projects to be a slightly better hitter, he'll go 5th.  Plus, Phillips gets a good deal of his value from the homer, so that fits pretty well. 

As for the 6-9 hitters, it's basically just as the old-schoolers would have it.  You put what is left in decending order of skill, with the pitcher hitting 9th.  But as Sky says,

"stolen bases are most valuable ahead of high-contact singles hitters, who are more likely to hit at the bottom of the lineup.  So a base-stealing threat who doesn't deserve a spot higher in the lineup is optimized in the #6 hole, followed by the singles hitters." 

Sounds tailor-made for Willy T, right?  Well, not exactly.  The guys we have left are Dickerson, Gonzalez, Taveras, and the pitcher.  Dickerson is really not a high-contact singles kinda guy, as he projects to K a good bit and hit for some pop.  The same kinda goes for Gonzalez.  Also, Dickerson will certainly swipe a few bags, so the 6th spot is probably best for him.  Gonzalez will bat 7th, and the pitcher will go 8th.  It's slightly better to have a better hitter than the pitcher in the 9 position to act as kind of a second lead off guy.  If you have a decent hitter hitting 9th, then there is a better chance someone will be on base for your good hitters.

So that gives us a lineup that looks like this:

EdE
Votto
Phillips
Bruce
Hernandez
Dickerson
Gonzalez
Pitcher
Taveras

Compare to Dusty's projected lineup:

Taveras
Gonzalez
Votto
BP
Bruce
EdE
Dickerson
Hernandez
Pitcher

This is a pretty drastic change from the Dusty ol' lineups we'll be seeing come April.  Taveras and Gonzalez will most likely hit 1-2 instead of 9-7.  Hernandez is hitting 5th here (how depressing is that?) instead of 8th for Dusty.  Now, as for when Gomes is in LF instead of Dickerson, here is how that lineup should look:

EdE
Votto
Hernandez
Gomes
Bruce
Phillips
Gonzalez
Pitcher
Taveras

Gomes slots into the 4 hole because he becomes one of our top 3 and everyone else is knocked down a peg.  Hernandez is moved up to 3rd, Bruce hits 5th, and BP slots in at 6 to take advantage of his base stealing abilities. 

So that is what the Reds lineup SHOULD look like in order to maximize run production.  It doesn't really change a whole lot production-wise from what Dusty will be writing in, but every run counts, right?  The important point to understand here is that the top of your lineup is going to get the most ABs, so you want your best hitters (highest OBP) there.  Taveras and Gonzalez hitting 1 and 2 is basically doing the exact opposite.

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