1/10/15

Reese Kaplan - Reconstructing the Existing Lineup

13 comments
A lot can be said about Terry Collins’ lineup construction (and not much of it very good).  He’s seemingly of the mindset that bunting is an unforgivable sin, the leadoff guy must be the stolen base leader on the team, whomever bats second must play 2nd base, and all rookies must be banished to the 8th slot in the lineup with no protection because setting them up to succeed, well, it just doesn’t seem to make sense to him. 

Let’s pretend for a moment that we had a real leader who actually managed games with the idea of trying to win them.  Well, maybe that's not a fair assessment, but looking at how he manages the games and his career record as a loser (a below .500 record – fact, not opinion), perhaps we can see how the Mets might better utilize the flawed talent they have on their roster in the construction of a more effective lineup.

Many sabermetric studies have been done to suggest you want your best contact hitters up in the 1 and 2 slots of the lineup as they are going to come to the plate most often and you want them on base as much as possible to set the table for the RBI guys who follow.  Towards that end it doesn’t necessarily follow that an Eric Young type whose only skill was stealing bases made for the best leadoff option.  Similarly, you don’t necessarily look to put your best bunter 2nd even if you had a manager who understands what the concept of a bunt is.  The two mirror images of one another in this regard are Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores, guys who spray the ball to all fields, hit doubles frequently, rarely strike out and who get on base.  Flores has and edge over Murphy in power but Murphy has the edge when it comes to stealing bases.  I’d go with Murphy leading off and Flores batting second.

The third spot in the order should go to the best overall hitter in terms of OBP, batting average, RBI production and power.  In his prime without a doubt that player is David Wright.  One can only hope that with a winter (plus) to recover he will recapture some of what he used to deliver while playing at Shea. 

The fourth spot in the lineup should be reserved for your bopper – the guy you want up when runs need to be produced.  Without a doubt based upon last season that would be big Lucas Duda.  He led the team in home runs, RBIs and OBP.  While he’s a bit anemic when it comes to lefty pitchers, he is the prototype of what you want when you need someone to push runs across the plate.

The fifth spot should go to a cleanup hitter alternative.  Now you could make a case for any of three hitters here.   I would advocate the role belongs initially to Michael Cuddyer.  He was brought in as a professional hitter who at various times has eclipsed 30 HRs and 100 RBIs as well as a .300 average.  However, his overall career numbers are not quite that stellar.  His 162 game average is a respectable .279 with 21 HRs and 86 RBIs while getting on base at a decent .347 clip. 

The sixth spot is the man most likely to ascend to the 5th spot in the order, catcher Travis d’Arnaud.  He showed the power and hitting consistency in his return visit from Las Vegas that made him a top prospect when he was obtained in the R.A. Dickey trade.  As he continues to develop, he may show increased power and OBP capability that could surpass Cuddyer on the down side of his career arc. 

The seventh spot goes to the expensive left fielder who has power but not much else in his offensive arsenal.  Last year Curtis Granderson delivered but 20 HRs and 66 RBIs to go along with 141 strikeouts, a .227 average and a .326 OBP.  He used to steal some bases but he hasn’t really been much of a threat since 2011.  As he ages, that part of his game is probably in decline permanently. 

Batting eighth would ironically be the guy who, after Lucas Duda, probably made the biggest offensive improvement from 2013 to 2014, Juan Lagares.  His batting average increased from .242 to .281 and his stolen base total went up from 6 to 13.  He has stolen as many as 25 in a minor league season, so it’s possible he’ll continue to develop in that regard.  Those things are all good.  What’s not so good is his pace to K over 100 times which is very bad for a singles hitter.  His career OBP in the minors is .322, matching his .321 from last season.   While I applaud the strides he’s made as a batter, you can’t afford to keep giving away ABs at the top of the order with arguably (next to Granderson) your least effective hitter.  Minimize the damage by giving him as few opportunities as possible.

So here’s the final projected lineup I would use.  Note I'm not in favor of the pure L/R alternating batters approach, but rather the right people in the right position:

Murphy      L
Flores      R
Wright      R
Duda        L
Cuddyer     R
d’Arnaud    R
Granderson  L
Lagares     R

Of course, I don’t expect this lineup to materialize.  More likely it’s more of the same:

Lagares     R
Murphy      L
Wright      R
Duda        L
Cuddyer     R
Granderson  L
d’Arnaud    R
Flores      R 

What’s your ideal lineup given the cards that we’ve been dealt?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've never gotten too into lineup construction, personally.

The problem is that they don't have a leadoff hitter. Sandy watched him walk away years ago and has yet to address it. Some day, when games matter, we might begin to think it was important.

You do two things here. One, Granderson below d'Arnaud, and I believe in that. I think d'Arnaud will be a much better hitter; whereas Granderson is mostly a "dangerous" hitter. The 7-spot seems right. Also, you put Flores into the thick of things.

When I managed a men's hardball team, I used to say that I don't decide who is the SS; you guys reveal it to me. I don't pick the cleanup hitter; the players reveal it. The key is to watch with an open mind and react to the reality in front of you. That's where I lose a little faith in TC, who tends to cling to a-priori ideas.

There's a lot of wiggle room with this group. Today, in January, I pretty much don't care how they start the season. I don't think it matters much. I just hope that TC reacts intelligently to the play they give him; and for the most part, I think he will.

James Preller

Adam Smith said...

I've advocated for some time for Flores in the 2-hole. With his contact ability, he would seem to be a natural there, and potentially a very dangerous hit and run guy.

Anonymous said...

I understand the logic behind the first lineup, but I would go for the second one because TC isn't I only idiot who burns a BP arm with one batter, so there is merit to the lefty/righty spacing.
Anon Joe F

Pascack95 said...

I actually really like your lineup. It is good lefty/righty balance and it gives Flores every chance to succeed. I would even take it a step further and suggest batting Lagares 9th to put his speed on the base paths directly in front of Murphy and Flores - thus giving them more RBI chances. Besides, The pitcher will almost always get pinch hit for during the last turn in the lineup anyway, so it's not like it should be hurting the team much.

eraff said...

I do not like Flores in the #2 slot...I dont't loke clogging the bases early in the lineup.

If Lagares and Flores are playing, I'd prefer one of them batting 9th, with the Pitcher 8th. Managing the #8 slot, especially in front of some bad hitting pitchers, is a really tough job---not a good place for high ceiling developing hitters. Tejada fits that slot well.

Stephen Guilbert said...

I echo the idea of maybe trying Lagares out in the 9-hole.

However, if he continues to progress instead of regress from 2014, the leadoff spot should be his. He had a .321 OBP last year which is unspectacular but solid. If he can improve on that and continue his torrid steal rate from late in the year, why not?

Reese, I do have some issues with your interpretation of Sabermetrics, though. While good hitters should go in the 1 and 2 holes, the priority should be OBP over what you're saying is just a hit tool. I'd much rather a .250/.350 hitter than a .290/.320 (Murphy and Flores are both more of this type). Good reddit for you to read here: http://www.reddit.com/r/Sabermetrics/comments/2gqnj7/lineup_optimization/

Side note here--Flores is best in the lineup as a run producer. He doesn't walk much, has terrible foot speed, but mashes and has always performed well with men on base. I like him 6th for now.

I would encourage you to continue your research about the benefits (or the lack there of) of bunting. Read more here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-sacrifice-bunt-the-real-rally-killer/

I appreciate the effort in examining the lineup on a saber level but it's a process. There has been much research on the subjects you speak of and it's some fun stuff. You should check it out and then let me know if it changes your mind at all.

--Stephen

Stephen Guilbert said...

Why doesn't Granderson get more love for the leadoff spot? While his average is terrible (dragged down from a horrid April which could have been jet lag from the two broken hands), he still ran a .326 OBP out there last year aided by a 12% walk rate. He has speed: both in stealing ability and base running smarts, and was out-OBPd by only Duda, Murphy (barely) and, yep, Ruben Tejada last year.

My plan would be to start with Lagares in the leadoff spot and hope he can continue to improve off of his .321 OBP last year. If he's .330-.340 or better, that's just fine for a lead off hitter who has speed and a nice XBH boost as well.

If Lagares flounders in the role and regresses to 2013 numbers, he's our 8 hitter. Then I'd try Granderson. People hate to admit it, but Granderson did actually do a lot well last year--especially after April. He walks a TON and has good speed. You want that at the top.

Stephen Guilbert said...

Haha goodness this article is hypercritical of Terry Collins. His lineup construction is far from optimized but trust me, exactly zero current managers come close to optimizing their lineups.

The benefits of bunting have been debunked many times.

This article kinda bothers me. I'll write a counter, if you don't mind (Mack, Reese only with your permission).

Reese Kaplan said...

Go for it, Stephen. I'm all for open debate.

Thomas Brennan said...

Like the lineup, Reese. Get Dekker in there often, though.
Flores up early and often.

Charles said...

I agree Steve. Grandy is one of two options for this team to lead off. He walks a lot when he's going good and can lead off ther game with a homerun.

Lagaras is the other option and I never would put Murphy batting lead off. He's a pure hitter, the type that studies pitchers from the on deck circle. I'd hate to take that study away from him once a game.

Lagaras is a swinger and wouldn't suffer from being first to the plate. Grandy has a great eye so he wouldn't suffer either.

Flores shouldn't bat second because he's just not ready for that yet. He should bat where he's batted his entire career. Somewhere in the middle of the lineup where he could drive in runs.

Versus righties
Grandy
Murphy
Wright
Duda
Cuddyer
Darno
Flores
Lagaras

Versus lefties

Lagaras
Murphy
Wright
Cuddyer
Darno
Grandy
Flores
Mayberry

I'd really like to see Puello make the team(on merit) in spring training. Having him to spell Grandy against lefties would add another dimension to this team and possibly perfectly balance this squad against any pitcher.

Charles said...

Flores had some good weeks. I think and certainly hope that constant play without the threat of losing his job will help him to reach his full potential.

That said, he hasn't "proven" anything. Would I burry him batting 8th in this lineup? Never. But I don't think he belongs batting second on a team that has had a two hole hitter and a great one for nearly 5 years now. That's Murph's spot because he's earned it and keeps earning it.

I anticipate good to great things for Flores. I hope he becomes our Peralta. I hope he seizes this opportunity and solidified himself as our starting SS.

I just don't think he should bat anywhere in the top 5-6 spots yet until he actually proves that he's Money. If he does, great put him up there, I'm all for it. Until he does, keep him in the 7th spot.

Thomas Brennan said...

Hey, in the theme of today's Morning report, if Wright's shoulder becomes a career-long issue, maybe he'll end up batting 8th.

His shoulder may be nearly 100%, and stay that way, but let's hope it does not become his Achilles heel because he played with it long enough to make it chronic.

Mack's Mets © 2012