FanPost

Solving the batting order puzzle (with splits and sims): Can you beat my lineups?

I usually hate it when the conversation here at BYB turns to batting orders. Everyone has an opinion on the best lineup, and we can all spill some digital ink to defend it. But today I've developed an odd fascination with the topic. I actually wondered if I could write a simulation program to help find the best batting order in terms of runs produced, but then I had a much better idea - maybe someone else has already done that (and of course they have). That's what gave me the idea for the batting order contest described below.

First though, I wanted to see if I could figure out on my own the best lineup versus lefties and versus righties (my hope is that in the post-Leyland era, these two lineups don't always need to be the same). I looked up splits (vs LHP and vs RHP) for each regular and platoon player on the Tigers. In a few cases I chose to use career numbers (Avila, Davis, Dirks, Iglesias, Jackson), for most others I used 2013 splits (I can explain these decisions upon request). For Castellanos I took his overall Steamer projection and fudged some splits to give somewhat better performance against lefties. These are the same splits that will go into the simulator I'll mention in a moment. But first I'll give my lineups, alongside each player's on-base-percentage and slugging against righties or lefties.

First, my lineup against RIGHT-handed pitchers:

Player OBP SLG
Jackson 0.349 0.428
Kinsler 0.331 0.402
Cabrera 0.426 0.609
Martinez 0.373 0.441
Avila 0.362 0.447
Hunter 0.327 0.461
Dirks 0.333 0.418
Castellanos 0.301 0.377
Iglesias 0.325 0.321

This is a pretty vanilla lineup - similar to what many others have suggested. Jackson is a better choice for leadoff against righties than Kinsler - slightly better hitting and better speed on the basepaths. I bumped Avila up to 5th because he hits lefties pretty well and it helps to separate him from the other lefty in the lineup (Dirks).

And now, my lineup against LEFT-handed pitchers:

Player OBP SLG
Davis 0.354 0.425
Kinsler 0.375 0.439
Cabrera 0.488 0.722
Martinez 0.324 0.412
Hunter 0.353 0.476
Castellanos 0.338 0.450
Iglesias 0.323 0.410
Avila 0.306 0.322
Jackson 0.332 0.385

Ah, here comes controversy! Until today, I thought I was squarely in the Jackson-for-leadoff camp. But somehow I had never realized that Ajax has reverse splits and hits much worse against lefties (and these are big career sample sizes too). Upon realizing this, I initially assumed that Kinsler should lead off instead. But after looking through the numbers, I think Rajai Davis is the best choice to replace Jackson near the top of the order, and in that case he might as well bat leadoff. Davis is the only Tiger who can reliably steal bases against left handed pitchers: he's 96 of 121 career for SB vs lefties, compared a measly 4 of 11 for Jackson's career, while Kinsler was just 2 of 5 against lefties last year and 15 of 26 overall. Elsewhere in the lineup - the idea of Hunter as a mid-lineup hitter has grown on me... he looks better than Martinez above, but that's skewed by VMart's horrendous first half last year, so I'd stick with Vic at #5. Jackson's weak #'s vs. lefties place him naturally toward the bottom of the lineup, and at #9 he can be the "pre-leadoff" man in later innings. And Cabrera's numbers against lefties last year were just absurd and unfair to the pitchers.

OK, and now comes the reason why this is not just a silly "here's the bestest batting order" fanpost. I plugged my lineups and split statistics into this simulator, which uses each player's probabilities of walks, singles, doubles, etc. to predict how many runs per game the team should score. Now granted, there are a LOT of limitations to that simplistic approach. It doesn't allow for situational strategy, my use of split stats assumes that the lefty lineup never faces righty relievers, and so on. But here's what I got:

Vs. Lefties: 4.93 runs per game

Vs. Righties: 4.59 runs per game

Can your lineup do any better? Only one way to find out - or actually, two ways. First, you can give me your lineup in the comments (tell me if it's for lefties, righties, or both), and I'll run it using the stats I already plugged into the simulator website. Or, you can use the site yourself, by uploading a file that looks like one of these (the columns are AB, BB, 1B, 2B, 3B, HR, SB, CS):

You'd save the ten lines below as a plain text file for a lineup against righties (then you can change the batting order using the website):

LineupSimulator.com FileVersion=1.0
Jackson 1642 141 341 77 32 28 65 17
Kinsler 388 34 73 18 1 11 13 8
Cabrera 422 60 94 18 1 31 3 0
Martinez 379 38 89 21 0 9 0 2
Avila 1181 182 196 67 6 45 6 3
Hunter 436 11 89 30 4 10 1 1
Dirks 790 61 142 47 7 24 13 3
Castellanos 334 22 59 18 1 7 3 2
Iglesias 268 9 62 10 0 1 5 1

And this would be the file for a lineup against lefties:

LineupSimulator.com FileVersion=1.0
Davis 802 70 163 52 10 11 96 25
Kinsler 157 17 32 13 1 2 2 3
Cabrera 133 30 28 8 0 13 0 0
Martinez 226 16 43 15 0 5 0 0
Hunter 170 15 36 7 1 7 2 1
Castellanos 160 12 31 9 1 5 2 1
Iglesias 156 10 30 8 2 3 1 1
Avila 335 42 47 17 1 6 1 0
Jackson 662 81 105 38 6 14 4 7

Of course, I reserve the right to believe that my own lineups are the bestest, even if the numbers say otherwise. But just for fun, because it's still February and maybe we need some distraction, let's see whose lineups come out on top in the realm of simplistic digital baseball. Game on - what are your best lineups?

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.

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