2014 Reds

I Don’t Care about the Lineup

One game into the spring training season, I’ve already seen some lineup complaints. This, it seems, is what Bryan Price intends to send out most days:

1. Billy Hamilton
2. Brandon Phillips
3. Joey Votto
4. Jay Bruce
5. Ryan Ludwick
6. Todd Frazier
7. Devin Mesoraco
8. Zack Cozart
9. Pitcher

Certainly, some players will slide around. Hamilton needs to prove himself. Yada yada yada.

Do I think this is ideal? No. Here’s the lineup I’d use if I were in charge:

1. Brandon Phillips
2. Joey Votto
3. Todd Frazier
4. Jay Bruce
5. Ryan Ludwick
6. Devin Mesoraco
7. Zack Cozart
8. Pitcher
9. Billy Hamilton

All that lineup does is acknowledge the studies saying the most important spots are 2nd and 4th. And then it goes in roughly descending order of OBP with Hamilton as an extra leadoff hitter at the end of the lineup.

But here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter. The difference between what I think is ideal and what will be used is so small it’s almost entirely meaningless.

What I really care about? Price doesn’t seem inclined to bunt all the time. He doesn’t seem to want to hit Cozart second. He seems rational, especially given that he does have egos to manage and I’m just somebody assuming players don’t care where they hit.

So yeah, you won’t hear me complaining about the lineup this year. It’s not worth it.

46 thoughts on “I Don’t Care about the Lineup

  1. Oh, heavens, no. Not another line-up thread. Granted, you admit that it doesn’t matter, but why, why, why even start it?

    I’d hire Eddie Gaedel IV to lead off in road games, then pinch run Hamilton for him. Almost a guaranteed lead-off double.

  2. Say the part about the bunting again, Jason. Say it again, pretty please. I need to believe it. :)

  3. Tony LaRussa has hacked Jason’s account! I could only support pitcher as 8 if it were Bailey, Leake, Cingrani.

  4. The studies show that lineup optimization makes the difference of 5 to 15 runs per year. That’s 1 or 2 wins. Lots of additional mitigating factors.

    Whether that’s a margin you consider significant is up to each person. It probably varies from team to team. 1 or 2 wins probably not important for the Astros or Cubs. For other teams, it might be pretty important.

    But I agree that lineup angst is overplayed, although it certainly makes for great participation on a team sports blog. :-)

    That said, given that managers are paid millions of dollars, it seems like they ought to be able to optimize a baseball lineup of nine players.

    • @Steve Mancuso: Yes, lineup construction can make the difference of a couple wins a year but most of that analysis is done in a vacuum. That is to say, all other things being equal, lineup ‘A’ will put your players in an optimal position to maximize production. What the analysis doesn’t take into account are factors that can’t be measured such as player comfort level, current health/fatigue, situational hitting, the opposing starting pitcher, and other environmental factors that a manager may have to consider. It’s the reason we don’t see even some of the most cutting-edge managers just putting the starting 9 in the lineup optimization tool and lining them up accordingly. While statistical/analytical optimization is certainly a valuable tool, the game isn’t played in a vacuum and what is best for the team isn’t necessarily always the most optimal lineup from a statistical standpoint.

    • @Steve Mancuso: There may be studies that say that. But, I don’t think those studies would say that it is a good thing to, for example, bat the pitcher in the 4 hole or put a Castro-type hitter in the leadoff position. Like many on here said last year, when Votto said he had no problem taking a walk, allowing the next player to hit the run in, where many said that we believe Votto would have a better chance to hit the run in than the next player. That, there are better hitters to go into certain positions in the lineup.

    • @Steve Mancuso: Yeah, but that’s going form the worst possible lineup. The difference between optimal and what Price is likely to do is probably not quite half a win. It helps that the Reds have 4 players who figure to be roughly average hitters.

      • @Jason Linden: Jason, do you really feel Phillips, Votto and Bruce would prefer to take away a chance of having Hamiton on base for them to hit in every game? My guess in no way!

  5. I’m more excited about the aggressive baserunning yesterday than the lineup or anything else really. It looks like Price genuinely wants to find other ways of scoring that don’t involve a completely free out. It’s scary to think we may have to find new things to complain about this year other than sac bunts, odd meaningless subs (Hanigan as a pinch runner comes to mind last year), and utility veteran players who start because “We need to get them going.” Whatever that means.

    Hamilton did look pretty good though. 9-pitch AB to leadoff the game is a pretty good way to silence some of the criticism about his vision in the batter’s box.

    This year is going to be fun.

    • It’s scary to think we may have to find new things to complain about this year other than sac bunts, odd meaningless subs (Hanigan as a pinch runner comes to mind last year), and utility veteran players who start because “We need to get them going.” Whatever that means.

      That was my thought upon reading this post. What are we going to get our panties-in-a-bunch about when there aren’t sacrifice bunts to move Drew Stubbs from 2nd to 3rd in the 9th inning of a game against a playff contender? We might have to collectively get new hobbies or something. I feel like this season may be the season of Musical Instruments for RN users. Or maybe woodworking… or knitting.

  6. Well since Jason mentioned lineup…

    Game #2 Reds v. Indians

    CF Hamilton
    LF Schumaker
    2B Phillips
    RF Heisey
    DH Lutz
    3B Nelson
    SS Cozart
    1B Soto
    C Miller

    Now THAT’S a lineup! You gotta love spring training, easpecially early season games.

  7. Since I was the first person to lodge a 2014 lineup complaint, which I assume spurred this post, let me qualify: I was only bringing up the fact that Mes was batting 8th seemingly in accordance with Dusty’s Laws of Lineup Construction because it felt to me like it showed Price wasn’t going to look TOO far out of the box, ie batting Votto 2nd, Hamilton 9th, etc as you suggest. I don’t think it means much of anything at all if Mes bats 8th or 5th. And maybe you’re right that lineup construction in general doesn’t have much of an impact over the course of a season, but it was just a signal to me of what I already pretty much knew – Price isn’t going to bring any sweeping changes into the dugout. It was just the first concrete reality check since his hiring. I’m much more concerned about the fact that we seem to be mortgaging the entire season on Billy Hamilton getting on base at a .320+ clip and Ryan Ludwick knocking in 100 runs with 2 reconstructed shoulders. It’s a safe bet that at least one of those things won’t happen and it could very well be that neither of them will and if that happens we’re in trouble because Walt has been asleep at the wheel for the last 12 months.

    • @eric nyc: “It’s a safe bet that at least one of those things won’t happen and it could very well be that neither of them will and if that happens we’re in trouble because Walt has been asleep at the wheel for the last 12 months.”

      It is also a good bet that they both do as well if not better than their 2012 versions:

      in 2012, Stubbs hit 213 and had an OBP of 277. Again I see Billy having a better season than that

      Ludwick had 80 RBIs. We do not need him to knock in 100 (while that would be nice). We need 80+

      Remember how many games we won that season. All that with Joey Votto on the DL for 50+ games

      • @reaganspad: Hey I hope you’re right, but that was when Ludwick was 2 years younger and had one fewer major shoulder injury. It’s a good point about Hamilton versus Stubbs, but with a rookie you really don’t know what you’re going to get. If he comes out of the gate putting up Stubbsian numbers they’re probably going to have to send him down because you can’t risk stunting his development. At the same time, to follow you’re logic we probably should have won about 120 games last year since Choo was so dramatically better than Stubbs and Votto played in every game, so it’s not apples to apples.

        • @eric nyc: Not 120 games but 100 was reachable without the injuries to:

          Ludwick
          Cueto
          Marshall
          Broxton
          Phillips

          versus 2012 where we dealt with Joey’s injury. Health makes a big difference and we could have won 98 games again last year if all 5 of those guys were healthy

          I like Choo, but I think we would have been a better team last year just being healthy with Stubbs. Choo cost us a few games in the field and some base running, so I never did see him as all upside. He was a nice Right Fielder playing center, and this year will be in a corner again.

          And Stubbs will be a star this year in Colorado where breaking balls don’t hamper as much

        • @eric nyc: Eric: you and I started a minor beat the dead horse dispute the other day(prop him up so we can both take a few swings)about Dusty’s managing. I honestly have no idea where he stands in the pantheon of managers (I suspect that you have a pretty firm opinion on the subject, though), but considering how good Choo and Votto were at getting on base, and the deflating outcome of the season, it’s hard for me to overlook how generally lackluster much of the rest of the lineup was. The thing is, many of those guys were playing at about their expected levels, so maybe it wouldn’t matter too much who was managing. On the other hand, a change at the top often brings temporary improvement (fresh eyes more than tougher expectations, evidently), so I’m pretty optimistic about this season, as we all should be when the lads have just started playing and it’s 8 degrees and windy out.

  8. Am I the only one on this site that is very nearly 100% ok with BHam leading off?

    With his speed, he should be able to make things happen at the top of the lineup. This is not a Dusty-ism, this is recognizing that Hamilton has a kind of game-breaking speed that you can’t really compare to any other player in MLB at the moment. If BHam hits a ball on the ground, he has about a 50% chance of making it to 1st base. Add in legit hits/walks, and I see no reason why he won’t be just fine leading off.

    Plus, the times he DOES get on, you have to figure he has a better shot at generating a run than any player on our team as he can single-handedly get himself into scoring position a vast majority of the time. So in a way, even if he has a sub-.300 OBP, he might actually be able to score runs better than those leadoff hitters who get on base more often than him.

    There should be a stat for guys like Hamilton that measures how many runs scored against how many times he gets on base. I think that would tell a lot.

    • @CI3J: Not the only one, I’m with you. If Billy can consistently put the ball in play, we are likely to see some pretty good things happen. IMO if BH ends up with a +.320 OBP, he will be the NL’s ROY.

      • @CharlotteNCRedsFan: Agreed Charlotte. I see about 80 steals and would rather have those leading off than coming with the pitcher on base in front of him.

        That is the problem with batting him 9th. The other team can just walk the pitcher and neutralize Billy. Then our pitcher is running the bases and Billy does not get a chance to steal if he gets on.

        I see nothing good in that scenario

        Spot Billy with Skippy and we will be fine at lead off

        • @reaganspad: If another team walks the pitcher just to slow down Billy, I’d say that that is good news for the Reds. Yes, you lose his baserunning, but on the other hand, you now have a free man on base; a man who was probably about to give up a free out to the other team.

        • @rhayex: I know. just saying. I do not see teams doing that, just was trying to answer why I would want billy in the 1 spot versus the 9 spot

          and I do suppose that happens naturally during the game anyway when the lineup rolls over with him batting one anyway.

          OK how about this: Billy gets a 9 pitch walk, steals second and causes and error and ends up on third to disturb the pitcher.

          OK i will go with that one

    • @CI3J: I think you’re making a good point, so I did a quick look at the numbers.

      Last year Billy Hamilton scored 75 runs after getting on base 155 times, for a 48% rate. That is very high. Last year, Shin Soo Choo scored only 36% of the time he was on base, while the NL average for leadoff men was 41%.

      The problem is that Hamilton’s OBP was only .301. If Hamilton get’s on base at the same rate and scores at the same rate, and get’s the same number of PAs that Choo did, he would score 103 runs. Choo scored 107 last year.

      So I think your point stands, Hamilton is likely to score more frequently when he’s on base than other leadoff men. That fact will probably offset his lower than average OBP. It’s not likely enough to make him a great leadoff man, but good enough to start.

      Of course, if Hamilton can get on base more often…

      • @al: This is the argument I think people are missing when people say Hamilton will not be as productive out of the leadoff spot as Choo was last year. On the surface, Choo gets on base more so he should score more runs than Billy. However, since Billy has a higher scoring percentage of times he reaches base than Choo, it helps to cut into the difference of times Choo actually gets on base more than Billy. It’s the second piece to the puzzle and taking the stats to the next level. I think tons of people especially baseball pundits are overlooking this idea when evaluating the Reds and Billy as a leadoff man.

        • @DatDudeMP: You do need to take into account however that different base-runners have different people hitting behind them. If the guys behind you are getting hits, you are going to score more often when you get on base. This is true even if you are a slow runner with exceptional hitters behind you versus a fast runner with decent hitters behind him. The slow runner will probably score more.

          Now, all things being equal, I think that Hamilton with his speed is bound to score more than Choo when he does in fact reach base. This is especially true since the same hitters will be hitting behind him. I think it’s a little harder to quantify though than the simple study that @al did.

          Honestly, I think if Hamilton can get on base at a .320 clip, which may be a tall order, then we won’t miss Choo’s on-base skills quite so much. Still, no matter how fast one is, it is going to be hard to replace a guy that gets on base over 40% of the time without the replacement getting on base at a good rate. The wildcard will be Hamilton’s defense. How many runs better than Choo is he on defense? That’s going to determine just how much the Reds will miss Choo and what the dropoff between he and Hamilton will be.

      • @@al: That’s some nice work Al. Maybe the best thing of all is the havoc Billy will wreck when on base. Man, that stuff is fun to watch.

  9. I never heard anyone make any lineup complaints. I only heard people expressing their opinions as to what they would do with the lineup.

    People shouldn’t be so sensative about things.

  10. Hamilton singled and advanced to 3B on a throwing error to lead off the game. Then the Reds failed to get him in. Skip struck out, BP grounded out 1-3, and then Heisey struck out.

    If Hamilton can get on base at a good clip though, I think the above scenario will be the exception and not the rule as far as Hamilton scoring runs.

  11. Corcino has shown why his stock has dropped so far due to last season. For some reason, he’s just all over the place. The stuff is still there but the location and command sure aren’t. He didn’t give up the slam but 3BB 2K and an RBI-2B in 2/3 IP is rough. I hope the kid gets it straightened out in spring training this year. I would like to see him considered to be a good pitching prospect again.

  12. I know it’s just spring training, but daaaang those minor league arms are looking rough. 11 earned runs in 5 innings. Ouch.

  13. I went to BWW to watch the game today. I liked what I saw mostly; I wish they were posting the radar gun on the pitches. I wanted to see what kind of speed Cueto was getting.

    I had no problem with mistakes like Cozart trying to stretch that hit to a triple, if you can call it a mistake. That’s when players should be trying that, to see if they do have the speed to make it over or not. And, against one of the better defensive OF’ers in the league, Bourn, Cozart almost made it. Now, only if he learns from it, getting an idea of just how fast he is and how much he can stretch hits. Or, when I remember Sappelt got picked off first a couple of years ago. That’s when those mistakes should be made, in ST.

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