2011 Marlins Season Preview: Optimized Batting Lineups


Earlier today, I showed the projected platoon splits for the Marlins for the 2011 season. The cool thing about projecting not only overall performance but splits is that we can use that information to build optimized lineups following the rules laid out by Tom Tango, MGL, and Andy Dolphin in The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball. These lineups are designed to get the most runs out of a given set of players based on the advantages inherent in any one lineup spot.

As a reminder, here’s The Book’s basic rule for lineup building:

The Book says:

Your three best hitters should bat somewhere in the #1, #2, and #4 slots. Your fourth- and fifth-best hitters should occupy the #3 and #5 slots. The #1 and #2 slots will have players with more walks than those in the #4 and #5 slots. From slot #6 through #9, put the players in descending order of quality.

There are a few additional guidelines that I can explain if they come up in building the Marlins’ 2011 lineups, but this is your essential set of guidelines. Your three best hitters should be at the first, second, and fourth slots because the first two slots get the most plate appearances (maximizing your best hitters with the most opportunities) and the fourth slot sees the most runners on base (maximizing your best power hitters). Your third and fifth slots are more or less interchangeable, and your sixth through ninth slots should essentially go in order. Having said that, what should our lineups look like, based on the platoon splits we projected earlier today? Let’s start with the lineup versus righties.

Lineup vs. RHP

Player Projected wOBA Proj wOBA vs. RHP
Chris Coghlan .345 .352
Logan Morrison .361 .368
Mike Stanton .355 .351
Hanley Ramirez .396 .392
Gaby Sanchez .343 .337
Omar Infante .332 .329
John Buck .323 .316
Matt Dominguez .297

The lineup the Marlins with which the Marlins are planning on opening is actually pretty close to ideal versus righties. Outside of not utilizing the excellence that is Logan Morrison in the second slot, the Fish are pretty much opening with the team’s best lineup against righties. Here are some thoughts:

- Hanley Ramirez is best utilized in the cleanup spot, as he has the second best power numbers on the team and is a better hitter against righties than Mike Stanton, who according to ZiPS should be no slouch either. I have no major concerns with Stanton in terms of grounding into double plays, as Stanton only grounded in double plays in nine percent of his opportunities last season despite hitting grounders on 43 percent of his balls in play. I suspect he’ll hit more and more fly balls as his career progresses, further limiting those double play problems.

- If I had to write a lineup for everyday use (that is, I chose not to optimize my lineups versus lefties and righties), this would be the lineup I would write up that remained as close as possible to the real lineup that Edwin Rodriguez is likely to throw out there. This seems like a completely reasonable lineup for everyday use for the Fish.

Lineup vs. LHP

Player Projected wOBA Proj wOBA vs. LHP
Hanley Ramirez .396 .410
Gaby Sanchez .343 .361
John Buck .323 .342
Mike Stanton .355 .368
Logan Morrison .361 .341
Omar Infante .332 .339
Chris Coghlan .345 .327
Matt Dominguez .297

Now this lineup seems drastically different than anything we’d expect to see on Opening Day, but it does take into account the performances of players that we would expect to see against left-handed pitching. Platoon splits matter, and we would expect some players to perform significantly worse against lefties than against righties.

- Morrison and Chris Coghlan are the big losers here, while Stanton and Gaby Sanchez are the big winners. Coghlan should be rightfully placed lower in the order, though I suspect that batting him ahead of Infante would be just fine if you’d like to see that more aesthetic look. As Coghlan’s career moves forward, I’d expect to see him display more of an even platoon split that would allow him not to get buried in the lineup when facing lefties.

- Morrison drops back to fifth, but I could see him at third ahead of John Buck. The third slot usually sees more double play opportunities however, and though Morrison avoided the twin killing last season (GIDP in only seven percent of opportunities), he has more of a ground ball profile than Buck has had of late, so I suspect Buck will avoid those double plays a bit better.

- I like Sanchez at the second spot behind a leadoff Hanley. I enjoy Ramirez’s game at leadoff, since he is our best non-Emilio Bonifacio baserunner and can help the guys behind him to avoid double plays with his superior baserunning and base stealing. Sanchez’s approach is fitting for a second slot hitter in that he can draw a decent number of walks and has good overall plate discipline. And let’s face it, Stanton was born to cleanup in the majors.

- Note how Omar Infante is batting sixth in both of these lineups. This is absolutely correct; he simply is not good enough to hit at the top of the order, where he would only be taking plate appearances away from more talented hitters like Morrison. There is an argument that says he should bat decently higher up in the lineup against lefties, but this would be my personal preference for his batting position.

Now Maniacs, tell me what you think about these lineups! Keep in mind that any changes would not add much more than one win to the team over an unoptimized lineup, and as a I mentioned, the Marlins’ projected everyday batting order isn’t all that far off from the one we’re using for righties. Still, tell me what you all think!

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Tags: Chris Coghlan Gaby Sanchez Hanley Ramirez John Buck Logan Morrison Matt Dominguez Miami Marlins Mike Stanton Omar Infante

  • http://dodgersims.blogspot.com/2011/03/20111-mlb-schedule-in-text-ascii-format.html Xeifrank

    I pitted the two lineups in your post against each other in a head to head matchup. The vs LHP lineup against the vs RHP lineup. I used the same pitcher against both lineups, except I made him left handed for one team and right handed for the other. The pitcher I used was Javier Vazquez, so I made two versions of him (RH and LH). I used the same bullpen (Marlins) and bench for both teams. I played two games, one with each team being the home team. Then I simulated each of the two games 100K times. Here are the results.

    FLAvsLHP vs FLAvsRHP
    FLAvsRHP win probability: 55.476

    FLAvsRHP vs FLAvsLHP
    FLAvsLHP win probability: 53.763

    So a slight edge to the FLAvsRHP team.

    The next step would be to plug in different lineups keeping (WOWY) everything else constant and see which lineup has the highest win probability. Of course there are many permutations, so it could be a science project. Could be reasonably done by selecting 10 or so different lineups.
    vr, Xei

    vsRHP @ vsLHP

    • Michael Jong

      Xeifrank,

      Very interesting stuff, thanks for the sim work on the lineups. I’m not terribly surprised that the vs RHP team hit better; as I mentioned in the blog, it aesthetically looks like the right lineup for the Fish. However, I cannot think of a good reason for that, other than that I did not optimize the lineups properly enough. Those percentages show almost a .02 win difference per game between lineups, translating to close to 3 wins in one season. Seems pretty significant.

  • Isiah

    I’ve mentioned this before, but how does the Book take into account the advantage of being able to hit n run? old school coaches have always preferred having a 2 hitter that is great at making contact so that the lead-off guy could run on the pitch, which provides some more safety from double plays (though not so much considering lined outs) and allows runners to advance to third on singles. since infante’s contact numbers are great, and he is faster and a better baserunner than lomo, i’d rather him batting 2nd in general, so it would be a bit easier to get a run early on.

    i’d also like to have lomo 3rd and stanton 5th (with Hanley fourth), mainly because lomo takes more pitches (for hanley to see, and it also helps exasperate a pitcher sometimes), but the value of that may be diminished considering that Stanton may get a few more fastballs being before Hanley.

    What’s the reason most teams don’t switch over their lineups for lefty-righty splits, is it just egos?

    • Michael Jong

      Isiah,

      The hit and run consideration is significantly less impactful for run scoring when compared to simply having a better hitter up at the #2 spot getting more opportunities to hit. In 2010, the #2 slot got 70 more PA on average than the #6 slot in a given season. That’s almost a 2-run difference between batting Morrison and batting Infante at #2.

      Consider that the specific situations involving a potential hit and run won’t come up more 18 percent of the time at the #2 spot (less considering it’s the NL and the pitcher bats two spots ahead of #2). Then think about how the hit-and-run not only potentially prevents double plays but also creates outs by inducing bad steal attempts as well, and you can see why it isn’t as serious a consideration. In fact, when considering preventing a potential double play, you might actually want a player with WORSE contact, since a double play generally will not occur on strikeouts.

      Managers think about these little plays too often, when the primary consideration should be to get your best players the most opportunities first and foremost. There’s simply no reason to spend 700 PA on Infante when it could be spent on a significantly better hitter like Morrison.

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