One of the things that is so hard about writing a column like this is that I, at least, don’t feel comfortable talking about numbers until I have at least half a season. I just don’t feel like I have a good sense for how much a run of luck is affecting a player and how much something has actually changed.
For this week, I decided to look at the totals for the numbers posted by the Reds’ primary players since the start of last season. I’m going to use that to segue into a brief discussion about the lineup. Here we are with what the lineup might be when everyone is healthy (OBP/SLG):
- Billy Hamilton (.292/.347)
- Joey Votto (.430/.483)
- Brandon Phillips (.306/.396)
- Jay Bruce (.326/.450)
- Devin Mesoraco (.312/.436)
- Todd Frazier (.322/.453)
- Ryan Ludwick (.319/.377)
- Zack Cozart (.280/.364)
These numbers are interesting because they really show us how certain players equate. In terms of OPS, Ryan Ludwick and Brandon Phillips have been equivalent. As have Cozart and Hamilton and, interestingly, Mes, Bruce, and Frazier. Votto, of course, is all alone at the top.
It creates an interesting tiered system, and you can make adjustments as you like. Maybe you think Bruce and Mes are better than these numbers or maybe you think Votto’s power isn’t even at this level anymore. But to me, they look about right.
Having those numbers, I did something I don’t normally do. I plugged that lineup right there into the baseball musings lineup tool. This is a dangerous step because, while baseball musings will provide optimal lineups (it agrees with Mr. Mancuso that Votto should leadoff), it drastically overstates the differences between lineups. The book tells us the difference between a “typical” lineup and the ideal lineup is 5-15 runs per season.
Baseball musings calculates that the above lineup will score 11 fewer runs than the ideal lineup over a full season. But, we have to account for the tool’s tendency to overstate things. If we do, we’re forced to say that the difference in lineup construction is likely worth less than one win (10 runs=1 win, generally). It’s something. The Reds are losing value by not sending out the perfect lineup, but it’s not much. Probably half a win.
And so, the point here is that on a nightly basis, it just doesn’t matter. It feels like it matters, but it doesn’t. If the Reds end up missing the playoffs by a game, sure we can maybe blame lineup construction, but that will probably be well down the list of ways the Reds could have won more (better bullpen usage, better bench, better use of funds). The Reds are an inefficient organization right now. The lineup is somewhat inefficient, but it’s not what we should most be getting lathered up about.
Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.