Lineup Shuffle

With all the stats talked about in this blog, there is nothing more important than Runs. Well, ok – wins and losses. But runs scored vs runs allowed by a team determines whether they win a game. And they can be analyzed to determine how many games the team should win and lose, over the course of the season. Obviously, the more runs a team scores and the less runs it allows, the more wins it will have. So the question for the Nationals is, how can they make a lineup that will score the most runs? This can be predicted using a statistic called Runs Created (RC). RC is a way to measure how much of the team’s total runs are contributed by an individual. That is to say, it measures how well a player does what he gets paid to do – produce runs.

The most basic version of RC that involves stolen bases (to give Nook Logan a little bit of a break) is still a simple formula:

RunsCreated Formula

For the sake of discussion, let’s use 2006 numbers. If the player doesn’t have 500 ABs, we’ll multiply out their numbers to see what they would have if they did. If the player is hitting leadoff or #2, we’ll make sure the numbers total 550 ABs. This is admittedly a crude way to show it, but it is an attempt to show the fact that those spots will always get more ABs over the course of the season. Additionally, we’ll use the Bill James Handbook projections and the Baseball Prospectus projections for 2007, again increasing everything proportionally to ensure everyone has 500/550 ABs. A few more notes:

  1. Schneider had around 400 ABs in 06 and his projection for 07 will be set around there as well. As a catcher, this is realistic for a full season.
  2. As Guzman and Dmitri Young spent most of all 2006 playing hurt or on the DL, let’s use their 2005 numbers.

Here is the likely possible starting lineup, assuming a hurt Nick Johnson and the kind of wisdom from management that would have let play Guzman and Logan. This is the starting lineup, or close to one, they have used over the last few games in spring training:

Nationals Current Lineup

Here is another possible starting lineup, before the return of Johnson.

Lineup 1a

Several things come to light from this comparison.

  1. Even in the best case scenario for the “real” lineup, they score over 50 runs less than the Nationals Review lineup.
  2. Usually teams have their best players in the 3-4-5 spots, the next best players at the top, and save the worst offensive players for 6-7-8. The Nats are clearly not interested in this theory when they bat Guzman second and Schneider 5th.
  3. The players at the beginning of the lineup get the most ABs, so putting Guzman or Logan up there would just expose players that don’t create as many runs as some of the other guys on the team.
  4. Without trying to, just attempting to make what would seem like a “natural” lineup (power guys in the middle, weaker but good hitter up top, and then decend down from there), this lineup actually works out well for RC. That is, the best players are at 3&4, then at 1&2, then 5 on down to 8. It is almost perfect how it worked, with some confusing around 5,6 and 7. Either way it shows how these statistics often back up, rather than refute, what seems natural to baseball fans.

Now don’t go crying about how Snelling wouldn’t get 500 ABs because he’d probably platoon, how Lee and Broadway would probably split time (and Johnson will be back eventually anyway), how a 4th OF will probably get a decent amount of playing time, regardless of platoons… all of that is irrelevant. And yes, the Nats will score more than 650 runs next season – there are other players on the team who will contribute. The important thing is that if the Nats put out the lineup that they seem to want to use, they won’t be putting their best possible lineup out there.

Finally a look at the Nats ideal lineup, where the Lee/Broadway/Meat Hook argument is moot at Nick Johnson is playing first:

Lineup with Nick

Nick Johnson, get well soon.

Ok that was some serious math (alright not really, but it was more than usual) so next week look for a relatively arithmetic-free NL East preview.

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