FanPost

(UPDATED 3/29) Building an M's Lineup By The Book

[NOTE: on 29 March 2009, I updated the optimized lineups to reflect Clement and Shelton starting the year in Tacoma - see the beginning of the entry for the update]

Thanks for the kind welcome everyone at Lookout Landing has given me so far.  I thought I'd try my first fanpost.  Sky Kalkman at Beyond the Boxscore just wrote a great article about Tom Tango and co.'s research about the ideal batting order.  I love lineups because when I'm dreaming about the Mariners' future glories, they help me visualize them as well as anything.  I put together a list of what the best Mariner lineup might look like.  It's certainly not the last word - I'm no expert and I've probably made a number of mistakes with it.  I'm more interested in hearing what others want the M's lineups to look like.  

Anyways, here's the takeaway from Kalkman's article before we start:

Here's how the lineup spots rank in the importance of avoiding outs:

#1, #4, #2, #5, #3, #6, #7, #8, #9

So, you want your best three hitters to hit in the #1, #4, and #2 spots.  Distribute them so OBP is higher in the order and SLG is lower.  Then place your fourth and fifth best hitters, with the #5 spot usually seeing the better hitter, unless he's a high-homerun guy.  Then place your four remaining hitters in decreasing order of overall hitting ability, with basestealers ahead of singles hitters.  Finally, stop talking like the lineup is a make-or-break decision.

 

Although I haven't read The Book yet (though I hope to soon), I wanted to imagine how close Wakamatsu can realistically get to Tango's Platonic ideal of the lineup-card.  And Tango works for us now (!), so we're in good hands.  The media and the fans have powerfully fixed ideas about line-up construction that will not change anytime soon.  Line-up construction does not affect a team's chances of winning enough to make it worth a media storm.  So the goal for Wak is to construct the most sabermetrically sound lineup he can while making it seem reasonably traditional.  

Remember: importance of avoiding outs:  #1, #4, #2, #5, #3, #6, #7, #8, #9.
The defensive numbers are guesstimates with a +/- 5 UZR 150 range that I made from looking at Fangraphs data from the past three years.  The wOBA figures are the rough averages of Fangraph's five projection models (Chone, Bill James, Marcel, Oliver, and ZiPS). 

                             SECOND UPDATE: SUNDAY, 29 MARCH 2009

I wasn’t all that upset that Clement and Shelton will be in AAA until I started making some revisions to the M’s optimized lineups.  Now, I’m mad.  Without those Shelton and Clement, we CANNOT platoon both Griffey and Branyan.  Either Griffey or Branyan will have to hit full-time against lefties because our ONLY decent right-handed hitter off the bench will be Mike Sweeney.  Balentien might improve, and he’s projected for a .320 wOBA, but he had a .257 wOBA last year and might crash and burn this year too – he’s a high-risk hitter.  Balentien belongs in Tacoma much more than Clement or Shelton do, but it looks like he’ll make the club.  I’m terrified the Mariners will hit Griffey full-time against lefties. 

Realistically, unless someone gets hurt, Clement and Shelton won’t be called up until the beginning of May at the earliest.  Shelton is arguably the M’s BEST hitter, period, even going only by the projection systems and ignoring his dynamite Spring Training.  Clement has a solid chance of being our best hitter this year (he hits lefties fine, is approaching his prime, and is less than .010 wOBA off from being the M’s best projected hitter).  Their bats will probably spend at least a month rotting in Tacoma.  The M’s will carry Kenji Johjima (projected wOBA .306) and Rob Johnson (Projected wOBA .304), while Jeff Clement (Projected wOBA .337) and Adam Moore (Projected wOBA .320) waste away in the minors.  Clement and Moore would make a killer catching platoon, but our organization’s third and fourth best catchers are making the club, while our two best catchers are not. 

Aaagh.  For the first time since Zduriencik came on, I have the same feeling I would get after a bad Bavasi trade.  Unless this is part of some brilliant trade maneuver (involving Clement, Balantien, or Betancourt, most likely), there’s no excuse for this.  We’re not even coming close to fielding our best team.  Clement and Cedeno should be starting almost all our games.  Shelton should start or see an at-bat or two in most of then.  I’m not all that upset about Morrow’s Sherman Statement about being a starting pitcher.  He knows his body and his blood-sugar levels better than we do, and he’s never given us any reason to doubt his fire, so I respect his decision. But a good chunk of the lineup Wakamatsu will pencil in this April will have no business being there.  After basking in the warm, fuzzy glow of GMZ’s many good moves this offseason, this feels like seeing Vidro in the two-hole and Sexson hitting cleanup all over again. 

    Updated Optimized M’s Lineup vs. RHP

L (35) 1. RF Ichiro ~.340 wOBA (D +10)

R (25) 6. 2B Jose Lopez ~.320 wOBA (D +0)

L (39) 3. DH Ken Griffey Jr. ~.336 wOBA 

R (30) 4. 3B Adrian Beltre ~.338 wOBA (D +10)

L (33) 5. 1B Russell Branyan ~.345 wOBA (D + 0)

R (26) 2. CF Franklin Gutierrez ~.320 wOBA (D + 15)


R (33) 7. Kenji Johjima C ~.306 wOBA (D ?)

L (31) 8. LF Endy Chavez ~.305 wOBA (D +15)

R (26) 9. SS Ronny Cedeno ~.305 wOBA (SS D + 0; 2B D +10)   

       BENCH

R (27) SS Yuniesky Betancourt ~.310 wOBA (D -10)

R (23) Wladamir Balantien LF/RF ~.322 wOBA (D - 10)

R (35) Mike Sweeney 1B/DH ~.324 wOBA (D ?)

R (25) Rob Johnson C ~.304 wOBA (D ?)

Waiting in AAA or AA

R (29) Chris Shelton 1B/DH ~.344 (D + 0)


L (25) Jeff Clement C ~.337 wOBA (D ?)

S (22) Reegie Corona SS/2B ~.280 wOBA (D ?)

R (25) Adam Moore C ~.320 wOBA (D?)

Gutierrez has a big career platoon split (.691 OPS vs. RHP, .801 OPS vs. LHP ’05-’08), while Lopez’s career platoon split is only about .020 OPS, so Gut hits #2 against lefties.  Griffey was miserable against lefties last year (.841 OPS vs. RHP, .649 OPS vs. LHP).  Johjima’s had a strong reverse platoon split  in 2006, a strong regular platoon split in 2007, and, in 2008, didn’t hit anyone well but did hit 6 of his 7 homeruns against lefties.  Maybe Joh can spell Griffey as DH from time to time, although Wak would have a hell of a time explaining that if he did.  But what other choice does he have for Griffey’s platoon besides Balentien? Shelton, Clement, and Moore are all better options, I would argue.

Updated Optimized M’s Lineup vs. LHP

L (35) 1. RF Ichiro ~.340 wOBA (+10 D)

R (26) 6. CF Franklin Gutierrez ~.320 wOBA (+15 D)


R (35) 3. 1B Mike Sweeney ~.324 wOBA (D ?)

R (30) 4. 3B Adrian Beltre ~.338 wOBA (+10 D)


R (33) 7. Kenji Johjima C ~.306 wOBA (? D) 


R (25) 3. 2B Jose Lopez ~.320 wOBA (0 D)

L (31) 8. LF Endy Chavez ~.305 wOBA (+15 D)


R (26) 9. Ronny Cedeno ~.305 wOBA (D + 0) 

     BENCH

R (23) Wladamir Balantien OF ~.322 wOBA (-10 D)

R (27) SS Yuniesky Betancourt ~.310 wOBA (D -10)


L (39) 3. DH Ken Griffey Jr. ~.336 wOBA (-20 D)

L (33) 5. 1B/3B Russell Branyan ~.345 wOBA (0 D)

R (25) Rob Johnson C ~.304 wOBA (D ?)

     Waiting in AAA or AA

R (29) Chris Shelton 1B/DH ~.344 (D + 0)


L (25) 5. C Jeff Clement ~.337 wOBA (D ?)

S (22) Reegie Corona SS/2B ~.280 wOBA (D ?)

R (25) Adam Moore C ~.320 wOBA (D?) 

 

 

 

DREAM LINEUP VS. RHP [Written 3/19/2009]

L (35) 1. RF Ichiro ~.340 wOBA (D +10)

R (30) 2. 3B Adrian Beltre ~.338 wOBA (D +10)

L (39) 3. DH Ken Griffey Jr. ~.336 wOBA 

L (33) 4. 1B Russell Branyan ~.345 wOBA (D + 0)

L (25) 5. C Jeff Clement ~.337 wOBA (D ?)

R (25) 6. 2B Jose Lopez ~.320 wOBA (D +0)

R (26) 7. CF Franklin Gutierrez ~.320 wOBA (D + 15)


L (31) 8. LF Endy Chavez ~.305 wOBA (D +15)

*R (26) 9. Ronny Cedeno ~.305 wOBA (D + 0)

 
        *OR R (27) SS Yuniesky Betancourt ~.310 wOBA (D -10)

R (33) Kenji Johjima C ~.306 wOBA (D ?)

R (29) Chris Shelton 1B/DH ~.344 (D + 0)


R (23) Wladamir Balantien LF/RF ~.322 OBA (D - 10)

S (22) Reegie Corona SS/2B ~.280 (D ?)

I leapt for joy when I read about the #3 hole being the 5th most important spot - we can hear Tom Hundler go "Batting third..." this year and be at peace.  Ichiro almost perfect at leadoff.  Beltre and Branyan are our two best sluggers (though Beltre strikes out less and seems in line for some good regression to the mean).  Kalkman says, "The #2 hitter should be better than the #3 guy, and one of the best three hitters overall.  And since he bats with the bases empty more often than the hitters behind him, he should be a high-OBP player."  Lopez wouldn't really fit the bill, even if he has a breakout season, because he walks so little.  Gutierrez doesn't walk much either and isn't a good enough hitter.  Clement has some potential for #2 (he walks a ton, good hitter) but he probably needs to have some big league success under his belt first for it to be viable with the media (and even then he would be unconventional).  This makes Beltre, I think, the best choice to start the year in the #2 hole, even if he doesn't walk as often as you'd like.  I worry a bit about our 3-4-5 so vulnerable to lefties (all three are platoon candidates), but we have a bench for that, I guess.

Optimal M's Lineup vs. LHP  


L (35) 1. RF Ichiro ~.340 wOBA (+10 D)

R (29) 2. Chris Shelton 1B ~.344 wOBA (0 D)

R (25) 3. 2B Jose Lopez ~.320 wOBA (0 D)

R (30) 4. 3B Adrian Beltre ~.338 wOBA (+10 D)


L (25) 5. DH Jeff Clement ~.337 wOBA 

R (26) 6. CF Franklin Gutierrez ~.320 wOBA (+15 D)


R (33) 7. Kenji Johjima C ~.306 wOBA (? D) 


*L (31) 8. LF Endy Chavez ~.305 wOBA (+15 D)


*R (26) 9. Ronny Cedeno ~.305 wOBA (D + 0) 


         *OR, hitting 7th, R (23) Wladamir Balantien OF ~.322 wOBA (-10 D)

          *OR R (27) SS Yuniesky Betancourt ~.310 wOBA (D -10)


S (22) Reegie Corona SS/2B ~.280 wOBA (0 D?)


L (39) 3. DH Ken Griffey Jr. ~.336 wOBA (-20 D)

L (33) 5. 1B/3B Russell Branyan ~.345 wOBA (0 D)

Here, I think Shelton would be a good 2 hitter - his career BB rate is 9.4% and he has power.  Clement has too much potential to keep out of the lineup, and he hit lefties better than righties in the minors.  Beltre's the clear choice for cleanup here.  I think Lopez has better breakout potential right now than Gutierrez, so I gave him the nod at #3.  I'm not sure whether Wlad's bat would make up for the 25 run drop in UZR 150 his glove would bring.  

Yeah, that's about it.  What are your thoughts on the M's lineup?

UPDATE: Sky Kalkman published optimized lineups for the Twins, Mets, and Yankees yesterday and for the Cubs and Red Sox today.  The first one has an even better summary of the lineup commandments.  Thanks for stopping by in the comments, too, Mr. Kalkman.

To optimize the lineup, put your three best hitters in spots #1, #2, and #4, with #1 favoring low-HR, high-OBP players, #2 favoring high-OBP players, and #4 favoring high-SLG players.  Then put your next two best hitters in spots #5 and #3, with the better hitter going #3 only if he derives significantly more of his value from HRs and isn't that much better than the other option.  Then fill your #6 through #9 spots in decreasing order of talent, with consideration given to handedness, baserunning, and contact vs. power hitters when players are close in hitting ability.  Put good baserunners ahead of contact hitters and power hitters behind players who can't advance themselves.

 

 

 

  

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