Posted by Steve
I have been intrigued by the fact that Ned Yost is considering hitting Jason Kendall ninth, because it shows he is at least listening to the Brewers’ stat people. Tony La Russa has occasionally hit his pitcher eighth, and it’s been done a handful of other times. It allows to have a “second leadoff” hitter to set up your big hitters.The important thing, though, is to put a very strong hitter in the second spot, which La Russa usually did not do.
I found an awesome page at baseballmusings.com that calculates lineup optimization. You just plug in all nine players’ on-base and slugging numbers, and it gives you the 20 best and worst lineups consisting of those nine players. Told you it was awesome.
Naturally, I tied this into my “I received my Baseball Prospectus Manual” post. I used PECOTA’s 2008 projections in the simulator and came up with the Brewers’ optimal 2008 lineup. Baseball “traditionalists” would probably not be too crazy about this lineup, but I loved it as soon as I saw it.
Without further ado, I give you the Brewers’ optimal lineup. The numbers listed are BP’s PECOTA projections for on-base percentage/slugging percentage.
1. Rickie Weeks .368/.454
2. Prince Fielder .384/.560
3. Mike Cameron .356/.493
4. Ryan Braun .367/.575
5. Corey Hart .358/.528
6. Bill Hall .335/.482
7. J.J. Hardy .329/.441
8. Ben Sheets
9. Jason Kendall .324/.321
This lineup projects to score 5.214 runs per game, which is certainly a strong number. It may seem strange to use Prince Fielder in the second spot, but this allows him to get more plate appearances over the course of the season than if he was hitting third or fourth. Doesn’t it make perfect sense to use your best hitter as often as possible?
A few more things to note. One unusual thing about this lineup is hitting Fielder second; the other is hitting Ben Sheets (or whoever is pitching) eighth and Kendall ninth. The idea here is to use a player with OBP skills in the ninth spot to serve as a second leadoff hitter.
Incidentally, for the simulator I used Sheets’s career OBP and SLG numbers, since PECOTA doesn’t bother projecting offensive stats for pitchers. For those who were wondering, Ben’s career numbers are a wicked .115/.079.
I definitely don’t expect Ned to use a lineup this out-of-the-box, but I like that he’s thinking of using Kendall ninth. I would feel a lot better about it, though, if he hit Fielder or Braun second.
For those who are curious, here is the worst possible lineup with these nine players. This lineup would score 4.385 runs per game.
1. Ben Sheets
2. J.J. Hardy
3. Corey Hart
4. Jason Kendall
5. Bill Hall
6. Rickie Weeks
7. Mike Cameron
8. Prince Fielder
9. Ryan Braun
And because this was so fun, I decided play around with the lineups Ned has been considering for the first 25 games when Cameron is sitting out. Of course we already know that Tony Gwynn has no business starting, but this reinforces that big time.
With Gabe Gross: 5.211 runs per game
With Joe Dillon: 5.271 runs per game
With Tony Gwynn: 4.672 runs per game
Basically what this is saying is: Tony Gwynn cannot hit. Do not start him.
I’ll have another post that looks closer at the projections. I just wanted to focus this one on lineup construction.