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playing-with-lineup-analysis | April | 2010 Articles

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Playing with Lineup Analysis

Written by Joe Lucia on .

I love this tool so much...its my best friend! If you've never played with Lineup Analysis...you really should. Its one hell of a timekiller. Anyway, there has been a lot of hullabaloo on Twitter lately about Bobby Cox's insistence on leading off with Melky Cabrera and keeping Nate McLouth in the 8 hole. It really makes no sense whatsoever, but then again...its Bobby Cox. The real question is, what lineup would give the Braves a better chance to score runs: the fan-favored lineup with McLouth leading off, or Cox's wet dream lineup with Cabrera leading off? Lets take a look. Now, before we start taking a look at things, there's a caveat. With these lineup analyses, I've used each player's career OBP & SLG. We don't know these numbers for Jason Heyward. For him, I used last season's MLB average. He'll probably be better, but its good to shoot for the lower end of the spectrum so we don't get too overhyped. I also used the NL average for the pitcher's slot in the order...since it really doesn't matter what pitchers do in the long run. Very few can actually hit to make a difference. The first lineup I plugged in had McLouth leading off, followed by Prado, Chipper, Glaus, McCann, Escobar, Heyward, then Cabrera and the pitcher's slot. This lineup would score an average of 4.935 runs a game, or 800 in a season. Again, this is assuming all player's do what they've done for their entire career. Lets say that Jason Heyward plays...say with an OPS 100 points higher than league average, so make it .840. That lineup scores 5.066 runs per game, or 820 in a year...a difference of 2 wins. So an above average performance from Heyward gives the Braves an extra 2 wins if McLouth leads off. Now we're going to look at the alternate lineup, with Cabrera leading off and McLouth in the 8-hole. This lineup scores...4.908 runs per game, or 795 in a season. Essentially, the difference between the two lineups with Cabrera and McLouth reversing roles is 5 runs, or half a win. Now, lets improve Heyward's performance like we did for the first lineup. In THAT lineup, the Braves would score 5.038 runs per game or 816 in a season. The difference between the two lineups with an above average Jason Heyward is 4 runs, less than half a win. Looking at both lineups, the maximum difference between the lineups with McLouth and Cabrera in different roles is half a win, assuming everyone performs at their career average. There's one other factor in this, that being Matt Diaz. Lets plug Diaz into the first lineup in place of Cabrera in the 8 hole...lets see what happens there. If we do that, the runs go up to 5.028 per game, or 815 in a season...we know thats an improbability because of Diaz most likely only starting when left-handed pitchers are on the hill. The Braves faced lefties 30% of the time last season, so lets use that as our baseline split. Assume 49 games a season are started by lefties (which seems a little low to me, but I digress). At the 5.028 per game factor, that would give the Braves 246 runs in those 49 games. In the other 113 where Cabrera is starting in place of Diaz and hitting 8th, the Braves score 558 a year. Add those two numbers together, and you get 804. Now, what if in those 113 games, Cabrera is leading off? The Braves score...554 runs, or an even 800 in the season. What do all of these crazy numbers tell us? Assuming Diaz and Cabrera are platooned like it is assumed they will, the difference in Cabrera leading off or hitting in the 8 hole on those days he's playing is...4 runs. Not even half a win. Fans are getting all up in arms, myself included, over 4 runs. Not even half a freaking win. Its funny really...we all sit here complaining and whining about McLouth getting thrown down in the order, when in reality...it matters so little that we shouldn't even bother caring about it. If Bobby starts platooning McLouth and Cabrera, which by the way, would be monumentally stupid since McLouth has the better splits against both righties and lefties, then we've got ourselves one heck of a problem.

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