|A New Dodgers Lineup with New Batting Order Theory||| Print ||
Written by Joshua Kay (Contact & Archive) on May 25, 2012
After watching Rays manager Joe Maddon place Carlos Pena in the leadoff spot for Tuesday's game against the Blue Jays, it got me thinking: batting order theory needs an amendment.
Maddon's theory of putting Carlos Pena in the leadoff spot did not "work" because Pena hit a 3-run home run that was estimated at 452 feet to end his 16-day home run dry spell. The move worked because Pena is third in the AL in walks and provides good extra base power.
The prototypical leadoff hitter is supposed to have good speed. Why? So managers can sac-bunt a fast runner on first base to second base to get a man into scoring position? That play is starting to gain recognition for not being one of the wisest moves a manager can make. Outs are the scarcest resource in a baseball game. You only get three per inning.
Since I have no doubt angered numerous baseball purists, I will immediately reference why this theory is brilliant. Let's take the Los Angeles Dodgers as an example. Dee Gordon is NOT a leadoff hitter. I am sorry. Currently hitting .200 with a sub .250 OBP, Gordon is doing nothing to help the Dodgers start games off well. There is no reason to put a guy with that low of an OBP as your leadoff hitter simply because he has incredible speed.
Instead, why not make Matt Kemp the leadoff hitter? The biggest cardinal sin for a pitcher is to walk the leadoff man. Now what is the pitcher going to do? You can't walk him. If you walk him, Kemp has the speed to steal second. If you pitch to him, he's most likely going to get a hit, possibly an extra base hit. Now you have a man on second to leadoff the game and if a manager is so addicted to the sacrifice bunt, in this situation, it's not really that bad of a play. You still give up an out, but now you have a man on third base with one out. It's still a bad play to sacrifice bunt, but at least it would make more sense in that position.
I understand you want to have a power hitter in the "cleanup" spot so he can drive in all those runs, but if you don't have a good leadoff hitter, there aren't as many runs to drive in. And besides, how often do those 3-run home runs happen? In my opinion, not enough times to make it a better decision that putting a Matt Kemp in the leadoff spot. You also get your best hitter the most at bats.
Notice how I didn't mention Matt Kemp protecting the pitcher. My friends, lineup protection is one of the biggest myths in all of baseball.
So, as kind of a public service to all the poor tactical managers out there -- hello, Jim Tracy and Bobby Valentine -- I am going to re-construct every single team's batting order to fit my theory. I could start with my favorite team the Tampa Bay Rays, but they are dealing with a slew of injuries right now. I will start this column with those aforementioned Los Angeles Dodgers.
No. 1: Matt Kemp, CF: Mentioned above, what better way to start off the game then with one of the most feared hitters in the game who happens to also have incredible speed?
No. 2: A.J. Ellis, C: With a .400 BABIP right now, the .327 batting average won't continue, but the 17 percent walk rate is completely legitimate. The goal of baseball is to get on base. That pitcher comes into the game and is forced to throw strikes immediately. No need to let a pitcher settle into a game by being able to face the free-swinging Dee Gordon.
No. 3: Andre Ethier, RF: Great contact, plus power, good spot.
No. 4: Bobby Abreu, LF: Will probably catch some heat for this, but if there is one thing Abreu has always had, it's plate patience. Better than average power is good for this spot as well. And besides, RBI's are a function of opportunity, not skill.
No. 5: Justin Sellers, 3B: 10% walk rate; have to put a righty here; notice the descending walk rate pattern?
No. 6: James Loney, 1B: 9% walk rate, does everything "average".
No. 7: Dee Gordon, SS: My mother always told me if I can't say anything nice don't say anything at all.
No. 8: Pitcher: Yes, put the pitcher here, because then the managers obsessed with the sacrifice bunt, can actually use it in an effective way. You push the fast runner to second base, staying out of the double play and then;
No. 9: Adam Kennedy, 2B: You begin to turn the lineup over with Adam Kennedy!? Yes, 16 percent walk rate for Adam Kennedy, and now Matt Kemp in the #1 hole, is no longer "wasted RBI potential" *insert sarcastic rant here*.
And there you have it. Team No. 1 of my "Around the MLB, fixing batting orders" is complete. Tweet me @Rays_Nut1292 for the next team you want me to do. If I don't receive any requests, I'll just continue by division.