Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Speed At The Top of the Lineup

One of the dumbest bits of old-fashioned baseball wisdom is that you want speed at the top of the lineup. This is simply not true, and when you think about it, the reasons are obvious.

At the top of the lineup you want guys who get on base regardless of their speed. Speed is less important because the middle of your lineup tends to hit for power, and when your #3 hitter hits a bomb, it doesn’t matter how fast your leadoff hitter is. In fact, the risk of an attempted steal by a leadoff hitter is exacerbated by the fact that the guys hitting behind him are more likely to hit HRs or doubles.

If you have a base-stealer, better to keep him in front of singles hitters. He can get into a position to score on a single, and he will help to keep you out of double plays. Think about it, do you want Corey Hart and his speed in front of Ryan Braun, or in front of Jason Kendall? Kendall is clearly the correct answer.

You should not ding a guy from the top of the lineup if he also has a high OBP, but if you have a guy who’s fast but not great at getting on, the best use of that speed is at the back of the lineup, not the front.


E.S.K. said...

Intuitive thinking and old-time baseball don't really go hand in hand.

I've been looking around rather lazily this morning for an article I read a few years ago that spoke to the number of starts your average "#1" pitcher makes vs. your average "#3" pitcher. I can't find it. Have you seen anything similar? I want to know if the Gallardo move will have an real implications if they stick to that rotation. I'm thinking/guessing it'll cost him two starts if they hold the rotation the same and don't skip anyone, but I have no proof that it's the case.

PaulNoonan said...

I can't find anything on it, but I don't think it's a big deal. Leadoff hitters get more at-bats than #8 hitters because they rack up more at-bats per game. Starting pitchers don't operate like that. I think the maximum number of games it could cost you is 2; one at the all-star break, and one at the end of the season, but that will only happen in limited circumstances.

I've also often wondered if what the optimal matchup strategy is for your starting pitchers. Unless you have a truly "top flight" starter at the top of your rotation, I would think it better to bump everyone down (at least) one notch in the rotation to attempt to create better matchups for your 4 best guys. I know that teams don't always play on the same days and rotation spots frequently don't match up, but to the extent you can manipulate this, you probably should.

E.S.K. said...

That's sort of how I figured it, 2 starts. 2 Gallardo starts v. 2 Suppan starts looks a little more meaningful though.

tracker said...

You've also gotta consider if Gallardo has a work cap of some kind. Conventional baseball wisdom suggests that young pitchers don't pitch limitless innings anymore, so somebody may be putting a hard cap on Gallardo's innings. He'll be 23 and his inning workload the last three years has been 155, 187, 45. In that light, he may be destined to miss a couple turns anyway.

E.S.K. said...

Could be, but if he was at 187 two years ago you have to assume they were prepared to let him pitch 200 innings last year (which actually would have made him the most prolific starter on the team last year). For reference, Sheets led the team with 198 innings.

His injury was his knee so I doubt that will have a huge impact other than the lack of innings last year.

Anonymous said...

I like this idea. What should our lineup be? Without actually checking stats, here's my thought:

Cameron (OBP)
Fielder (power)
Hardy (OBP)
Braun (power)
Hart (speed)
Weeks (speed)
Kendall (singles)