There has been a lot of talk recently about upturning the received wisdom, the common knowledge, of baseball in the past decade or fifteen years. For the longest time lineups were constructed like this: a fast on-base type leading off, a guy who could move him over next, your masher and basher 3 and 4, your next best power hitter 5 and then the rest hitting 6-9, especially in the National League where the pitcher still hits.
The onslaught of advanced analytics and the upturning of the status quo has led to people both in the dugouts, in front offices and the internet to question this orthodoxy. Sky Kalkman at Beyond the Box Score gives a short review of the new view and its simple, Giancarlo Stanton must hit second next year. Why you ask?
It is simple, by moving your best hitter one spot in the lineup you give him a better chance of scoring the lead off man and second you increase the chances of him batting more during the course of the game.
The Marlins case is sub-optimal because none of the players slated to be in their everyday lineup are particularly high on-base guys but given what they are given the team has to the best they can. So using their recent stats and their Oliver projections over at fangraphs.com I give you the Marlins best possible 2014 lineup against right-handed pitchers.
In his last 3 years in the Major Leagues with the Dodgers and the Cardinals, Furcal has gotten on-base at a decreasing clip of .366, .298 and .325. Although those numbers are discouraging he is probably the best choice to lead off in 2014. Oliver projects Furcal to get on-base at a .320 clip.
This will be a definite upgrade from the most prominent combo of Pierre, Hechavarria and Coghlan who combined to start 103 games as the Marlins lead-off hitter in 2013. Pierre’s OBP was .277 , Coghlan’s .267 and Hechavarria .263 at the top of order.
The Furcal signing is a great example of relative over absolute gains, the Marlin spent very little money to try and improve a very bad situation. There is very little downside to the move and if it fails there is very little to criticize the front office for. If Furcal gets on base at even close to .330 at anytime during the season it will be a huge success.
Giancarlo is the best hitter on the team and the analytics say he should be hitting here, I don’t think I legitimately need to cite any stat to prove that Giancarlo is a monster and deserves every opportunity to provide run creation available.
3. Garret Jones
If Furcal walks and Giancarlo gets on base behind him — no matter how it happened– the analytics says that the 3 hole hitter isn’t as important as the guy hitting second or fourth are. This means that you can have less emphasis on him being a guy to move the line along. For the Marlins in 2014 the best option to fill this role will probably be Garret Jones. Jones’ weakness is that he has as extreme of lefty-righty platoon splits as anybody in the game. He feasts of right handed hitters posting ai tOPS+ of 106 and sOPS+ of 95 in 2013, both about league average. In short at-least against right-handers Jones is good enough to be in this sport of the order.
Now this is where things get complicated for the Marlins. Which player has the best potential to be a legitimate run producer for them. The youngster Christian Yelich or their prized free agent pick up Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Since 2011 playing his home games at Fenway Park Saltalamacchia has posted ISO’s at .215, .232 and .193 respectively in ’11, ’12 and ’13 along with league average wRC+/wOBA numbers. Salty has nice power but doesn’t get on base as much as he should which makes him a prime choice to hit cleanup.
The Book and that Beyond the Box Score article says that the best 3 hitters on the team should hit 1,2 and 4. This makes me question if I should replace Rafael Furcal with Christian Yelich as the lead-off man. But as a nod to his experience I will leave Furcal at the top of the order.
5. Christian Yelich
The Book says the #5 guy can provide more value than the #3 guy with singles, doubles, triples, and walks, and avoiding outs, although the #3 guy holds an advantage with homeruns. After positions #1, #2, and #4 are filled, put your next best hitter here, unless he lives and dies with the long ball.
If this doesn’t sound exactly like Yelich, I don’t know what does. At both the Minor and Major League level Yelich has proven that he can get on base, hit for modest power and hit extra base hits to all fields.
Yelich is definitely one of the best hitters on the team and should be allowed to hit in the middle of the order. His healthy walk rate, decent extra base power and his composure at the plate give him a great opportunity to be in the mix as the anchor of the team’s offense
The next three guys, excluding the pitcher, are obviously not as important. McGehee will take the majority of the starts at third against righties and will take Jones’ place at first against lefties. Ozuna will man centerfield and hopefully look like the player that was so good when called up to replace an injured Giancarlo last April. Hechavarria will try not to be a liability at the plate and continue to provide stellar defense at shortstop. Hopefully Fernandez and Alvarez will maintain their 2013 batting form and continue to provide sneaky self run support in 2014.
McGehee has had 2 good Major League seasons and one spectacular Japanese season. In 2009 and 2010 for the Milwaukee Brewers and in 2013 for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
In 2009 and 2010 McGehee slashed .301/.360/.499 and .285/.337/.464 hitting 16 and 23 HR. With spectacular wOBA/wRC+ of .370, .347 and 126 and 113. Taken with a huge grain of salt McGehee’s .292/.376/.515 triple slash line in the Japanese Pacific League counts for a 150 OPS+ a 33.7 wRAA and a very impressive 5.4 WAR.
Again these numbers are speculative but seem to point in the right direction. It is said that NPB is like like AAAA baseball and a good hitting season from a Major Leaguer in Japan should be a positive sign.
Ozuna is raw there’s no doubt about that. What he showed us last year especially early in the season is that he is a free swinger but projects to be a legitimate doubles/triples hitter thanks to his speed. What’s more his defense was very impressive in both right and center field. If he can put 25 doubles, 6 triples, 10 home runs and keep rallies alive Ozuna will be a plus guy at the 7 spot in 2014.
There’s nobody as controversial on the Marlins roster as Adeiny Hechavarria. According to fWAR he was the worst everyday player in baseball last year posting a negative 1.9 WAR. In 2013 his OPS of .565 was the second worst among players with at least 500 plate appearances.
Fernandez looked good at the plate last year with some sneaky power and surprising composure. Proving how much of a competitor Fernandez is at every phase of the game. Alvarez also looked good helping his own cause a few times last year. The other guys aren’t a factor, especially Jacob Turner coming from an American League organization
What do you guys think about this lineup? Do you prefer the traditional methods for the lineup or would you like to see Redmond invest in a sabermetric friendly lineup. Let us know how you would put together a Marlins lineup in the comments.