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Taveras Will Leadoff, but Then What?

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Now that the Reds have their lead off man and centerfielder, the starting lineup we should see on Opening Day is pretty much in place.  Jocketty still wants a right-handed left fielder, but aside from that it appears we have our starting 9.  This means we can play around with Baseball Musings Lineup Tool and get a ballpark on how the offense as Dusty sees it might do next year.  If you aren't familiar with the Lineup Tool, it's incredibly accessible and can easily burn up a slow morning at work.  Just click the link and follow the directions.  Just input the OBP and SLG for 9 players and it will tell you how many runs that lineup will score for you, as well as the most and least efficient lineups for those players.  I especially love it because even the least sabr-inclined can use it and understand it.  It's rocket science for kids.

So since we know 8 of our starting 9, I thought it would be interesting to see how it would all work out.  I averaged together the OBP and SLG projections provided by CHONE, Marcel, and Bill James (Marcel and James projections can be found on the respective player's FanGraphs page) and stuck them into the lineup tool. 

Here's the lineup I came up with, which should score us 4.506 runs per game, or ~730 runs over 162 games (projected OBP/SLG in parentheses):

Taveras CF (.331/.340)
Gonzalez SS (.314/.419)
Bruce RF (.340/.504)
Left Fielder LF (.340/.480)
Votto 1B (.372/.508)
Phillips 2B (.321/.445)
Encarnacion 3B (.356/.476)
Hernandez C (.326/.421)
Harang P (.130/.148) - I just used Harang's numbers from last year


A couple of things on the construction of the lineup:  I'm pulling it totally out of my ass, and I should explain a few things.  Based on the way Dusty filled out the lineup card last year, I think Gonzo will probably hit 2nd.  He's the SS and since the CF is hitting 1st, Gonzo should hit 2nd.  You know this.  Also, Bruce hit 3rd for a while after Jr left, and Dusty has stated that he thinks Bruce is a 3 hole hitter.  Dusty could easily flip Bruce and Votto though.  Call it a toss up.  The right-handed left fielder will most assuredly fall in between Bruce and Votto.  Gotta defend against the LOOGY.  I put BP ahead of EdE because I think that is precisely how Dusty sees them, but again, it's a judgement call.  BP could just as easily hit 2nd as well.  That leaves the catcher and pitcher, which we all know must hit 8th and 9th.

Since we aren't sure who may be starting in left field for us, I'm working on the completely unscientific assumption that our mystery left fielder will OBP .340 and SLG .480 (for an OPS of .820, which is a bit below average for a LF and may or may not be optimistic).  You can plug in projections for any plausible left fielder you like (Dye projects as .335/.500, Baldelli projects as .329/.464, Wigginton .336/.469, Nady .335/.469).  But basically it doesn't really change the final numbers any significant amount. 

Of course, the Lineup Tool knows nothing of stolen bases, so the most sexy asset Taveras brings to the table does not show up here.  But as the esteemed Dan Szymborski of BTF fame explained to me a few days ago, those stolen bases aren't worth as much as we would hope when equated into OPS.  Sure it helps, but learning to walk would help more.

As for the optimal lineup for this group of players, I was pretty surprised by the results.  Here's how they stack up in a perfect world:


Surprise, surprise - EdE should be leading off and Taveras is batting 7th.  The most shocking thing though is that this optimized lineup scores 4.576 runs a game, or 0.07 more runs than my Dustified lineup.  That really isn't much at all.  The good thing to take away from that is Dusty's lineup isn't a complete joke.  The bad thing to take away from that is even in their most efficient order, this team isn't going to score many runs.

So what does this tell us?  Well, 4.5 runs isn't awful, but really not any better than last year.  And this lineup will not play all 162 games together in the same exact lineup, so 4.5 runs is pretty optimistic.  You still have to account for things like injuries, pinch-hitters, Dusty bunts, Hoppinger, and so on.  So basically, I'm not really telling you anything you didn't already know, but hey, it was fun wasn't it?  Try out the lineup tool yourself and see what your prefered/expected lineup will produce.  Oh, and let's hope the pitching is lights-out.