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The Maniac optimizes the Marlins’ lineup


Ever since former Beyond the Box Score overlord Sky Kalkman got to optimizing lineups for the Phillies and Yankees via The Book’s recommendations, everyone’s gotten into the craze. Blogger mb21 of Another Cubs Blog took care of this for the Chicago Cubs, and friend of the Maniac Erik Manning attacked this topic for the St. Louis Cardinals. I figured I should go ahead and do the same thing.

Disclaimer: The lineups will never be written up this way by Fredi Gonzalez, and even if I took over as Marlins manager, these lineups probably would not be more than five to ten runs better over the course of a season than what Fredi writes up. Well, as long as Fredi doesn’t bat Wes Helms second for 50 games or something.

Optimized Lineup vs. RHP

LineupPlayerProjected wOBA vs. RHP*
1Chris Coghlan.366
2Dan Uggla.353
3Jorge Cantu.333
4Hanley Ramirez.407
5Cameron Maybin
6Gaby Sanchez
7John Baker.331
8Cody Ross.329

*Projected wOBA splits come from this earlier post unless otherwise stated. Projected base wOBA come from CHONE.

Allow me to explain myself through each lineup spot.

Chris Coghlan’s and Cameron Maybin’s numbers are derived from the league average split, as I did not want to extrapolate more than that from their numbers. Coghlan’s splits are more likely to be even based on his minor league track record, so that .366 could actually be closer to .360, but I won’t quibble about such small value differences. Coghlan is probably among the faster players on the Marlins, and he is definitely one of the three best hitters versus right handers, which means he is deserving of a #1, #2, or #4 spot in the order. Given his speed (used to avoid double plays) and decent walk rates, leading him off seems ideal.

– I talked about batting Dan Uggla second before, but I’ll reiterate here. Truthfully, either Uggla or Hanley Ramirez could go here without much problem, as both players display good OBP and power capabilities and are among the three best hitters on the team against righties. Also, neither of them ground into double plays at a high rate (both players ground into DP in around 7.5% of their DP opportunities), and this is a major concern in the second slot, which sees the second most GIDP opportunities. Uggla’s high strikeout rate is best leveraged here because of that; the strikeout has the highest value relative to other outs in the #2 slot.

Jorge Cantu gets slotted here despite the fact that CHONE projects him among the lowest ranked players against righties on the team. Part of it is that I don’t believe Gaby Sanchez’ projection, but Cantu is close enough that I do not mind handing him this spot. The #3 and #5 spots should go to your fourth and fifth best hitters, and the spots are fairly even in leverage. One thing to differentiate is in GIDP. Cantu for his career actually leads this team in GIDP rate, and that would normally be bad for a spot that sees the most GIDP opportunities. However, with Cantu’s batted ball profile over the last two seasons, he has reduced his ground balls and increased fly balls. This of course has helped cut down his GIDP; while his career rate is around 15%, he has recorded a rate around 11% with the Fish.

– Hanley gets the fourth spot as one of the three best hitters on the team versus righties and one of the better power options on the team. He’s very good, there’s no real need to explain it. As I mentioned earlier, you could switch Hanley and Uggla and do just fine.

– Maybin gets this spot as he is projected decently against righties (though I will admit that I do not buy CHONE’s projection of Maybin). He also qualifies well here because of his speed and baserunning capabilities. The Book states that your best base stealer and one of your best runners should be in the fifth or sixth slot, ahead of inferior offensive players. This best leverages a speedy player’s ability to add on bases in front of players who lack power to move runners well on their own. Maybin fits the bill nicely as the only remaining speedy player on the team.

– Sanchez gets the nod here despite the fact that he rates better than Cantu. To be honest, I feel CHONE may be too optimistic on him, though I do not see anything out of line. I think Maybin and Sanchez will be about even offensively. Sanchez’ reputation as a gap hitter fits well behind Maybin’s speed.

John Baker gets the #7 slot against righties. He too is a line drive/gap hitter like Sanchez, so batting Maybin in front of him would also work well.

Cody Ross gets the last spot because he has proven awful versus right handers. He has the biggest platoon split among the full-time starters, and that should force down to the bottom of the lineup. Batting the pitcher here could also be useful for the “second leadoff man” theory.

Optimized Lineup vs. LHP

LineupPlayerProjected wOBA vs. RHP*
1Dan Uggla.362
2Hanley Ramirez.428
3Jorge Cantu.351
4Cody Ross.362
5Cameron Maybin.371
6Gaby Sanchez.370
7Ronny Paulino.343
8Chris Coghlan.336

I’ll give some brief explanations here. With the Marlins so righty-heavy in their regular lineup, it is of no surprise that the team’s lineup versus lefties is loaded.

– Leading off Uggla is definitely the right call versus lefties, despite the apparent bad reverse split that Uggla has displayed so far. The regression has him at slightly better versus lefties than righties, which probably is about right. Leading off best utilizes his walks, as the value of a walk is maximized at the leadoff spot. Ross jumps up to the cleanup spot because of his mashing capability versus lefties; he displays the best power on the team outside of Ramirez and Uggla versus lefties.

– I’m doubtful of Maybin and Sanchez’ projections for my reasons, though Sanchez’ seems more likely.

– Batting Coghlan last after batting him leadoff seems a bit extreme. I think he and Ronny Paulino are very close in their ability to hit lefties, so there’s not a lot of quibbling there. One advantage we can use here is the “second leadoff man” principle, which would have Coghlan hitting ninth. This would provide a much better hitter in front of Uggla and Ramirez than having the pitcher there. The downside of giving the pitcher’s slot more PA is minimized because pitchers rarely hit more than two times per game anyway.

So those are my lineups, as optimized by the rules in The Book. Tell me what you think and what we should go with instead!