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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Because I'm bored

Here's what the lineup should be (when Howard comes back):

Ruiz-Utley-Victorino-Howard-Pence-Brown/Mayberry-Rollins-Polanco-Halladay

ALSO ACCEPTABLE:

Ruiz-Pence-Utley-Victorino-Howard-Brown/Mayberry-Rollins-Polanco

Here's what the lineup will be:

Rollins-Victorino-Utley-Howard-Pence-Nix/Mayberry-Polanco-Ruiz-Halladay

OR

Rollins-Polanco-Utley-Howard-Pence-Victorino-Nix/Mayberry-Ruiz-Halladay

1) Why Ruiz should bat first:

Andy Reid could have Juan Castillo boot the opening kickoff in the first regular season game in September, and it would cause less of a reaction than if Charlie Manuel batted Carlos Ruiz leadoff in the nonsensical Opening Deck Series they have at CBP (which exists solely to scam partial-season ticket-holders out of an actual game). Actually, that's probably not true, and it's not because Reid has finally learned to defer the opening coin toss. I mean, if Andy Reid did something half-as-dumb as consistently burying your HIGHEST on-base-percentage batter in the 8-seed (even though his stats in the 6th and 7th lineup slots are significantly better), while the actual leadoff batter has a sub-.330 career OBP, his body would be somewhere in the Schuylkill River. Carlos Ruiz had a .371 OBP in a "down" offensive season last year, and his power numbers will benefit without a pitcher on deck.

1a) Why Ruiz won't bat first:

He's a catcher with below average foot-speed, which means he couldn't fit the cliche as the "spark in the lineup." Instead, we'll keep him in the 8th slot, which makes him more likely to bat in a GIDP-situation than if he is leading-off/batting behind the pitcher. Completely logical. Oh, and he'll "clog the bases," which is my least favorite baseball cliche, at least at this moment. What does that even mean? What type of ball does Utley have to put in play that would make it possible for Utley to get to second without Ruiz getting to third from first? Does any ball-in-play open up that possibility, and if so, how often would that occur? My guess is maximum once-per-year.

2) Why Utley should bat second:

He has the highest career-OBP on the team, he's fast enough to beat-out potential double plays when the QUINTESSENTIAL TWO-BATTER Polanco would be thrown out by 5 steps, and he can steal bases when he is on first with one out (even if he opens up first base with a steal, the opposition will not pitch around Victorino since Howard is on deck).

2a) Why Utley will not bat second:

"Utley is a 3-hitter when he's going good." - Charlie Manuel, 10 million times in his life. Also, the Phillies, like most other teams, don't realize that batting your best hitter third is counterproductive. He gets fewer PAs than the 2-batter, and he bats with the bases empty and 2 outs, the lowest-leverage situation, significantly more often than the 4-batter. I don't know about you, but if I were forced to choose between Utley and Howard at the plate against a random pitcher, I'd choose the former.

The 3rd batter should be the worst out of your 2-3-4 batters.

3) Why Victorino should bat 3rd:

See the above sentence. If it's perfectly acceptable to bat Victorino 2nd and Utley 3rd, then it should be even more obvious that Utley should be 2nd and Victorino 3rd. Victorino is fast enough to stay out of double plays with Ruiz on first and 1 out, and you have a deadly double-steal combo with Utley/Victorino when Howard is at the plate against the shift (third baseman will be out of position).

The most important reason for Victorino batting third here is late-inning relief situations. It is simply imperative that you have Victorino, by far your best hitter against lefties, bat between your two most dominant lefty batters. This will simultaneously increase the number of PAs Victorino gets against lefties while increasing the number of PAs Utley and Howard get against righties. That is a good thing, and that is a good thing that will likely go unacheived by this team as long as Manuel is the manager.

3a) Why Victorino won't bat third:

"Utley is a 3-hitter when he's going good." And, when Utley isn't "going good," Pence will bat third. Hideous.

4) Why Howard should bat 4th:

Because Utley wouldn't be batting 3rd or 5th.

4a) Why Howard will bat 4th:

The term "clean-up hitter."

5) Why Pence should bat 5th:

Because out of the remaining options, Pence is the best batter, and he's not a left-handed batter behind Howard. The Pence trade, at the very least, guarantees that we won't be seeing too many lineups this year with three consecutive lefties (Ibanez will not be missed, other than the fact that he is a human who somehow resembles Nintendo's Yoshi).


5a) Why Pence will bat 5th:

The term "lineup protection." Not as bad as "clog the bases," but it's close.

6) Why Brown/Mayberry should bat 6th:

This is the most obvious platoon situation in the history of baseball, but the Phillies look like they will forgo it in favor of Laynce Nix, whose career OBP (.288!!!) is somehow worse than the spelling of his first name. You could amputate both of Brown's arms, and you would still have better left-field defense than the past 4 years as long as Mayberry started every other game and kept both arms for the entire season.

6a) Why Brown/Mayberry will not bat 6th:

Because the treatment of Domonic Brown since the Hunter Pence trade has been nothing short of embarrassing. Does anyone remember the last time the Phillies had a "plus-defender" in left field? Ron Gant? Was he even a good defender? Phillies fans lost their collective skulls after Brown butchered right field last season, writing him off as a bust quicker than Evan Turner, and the consensus seems to be that he needs another year in the minors to learn how to track fly balls.

Yeah, I'm fine with trading Ibanez's defense for Brown's, as long as Brown puts up something slightly better than Ibanez's sub-.290 OBP from last year. Brown is projected for a .345ish OBP this season, and, unlike most lefties on this roster, he can actually hit LHPs.

Domonic Brown will be my biggest complaint this season, by far.

7) Why Rollins should bat 7th:

Because he does not have the OBP to bat in the top half of the order, because he's still better than Polanco, and because he will be able to steal more at the bottom of the lineup than at the top. This does not even consider the possibility of offensive regression after signing a large contract.

7a) Why Rollins won't bat 7th:

Manuel's inane "he's our sparkplug" viewpoint combined with the severely flawed concept that speed is necessary for a lead-off man.


8) Why Polanco should bat 8th:

Because he is the Phillies' worst hitter in the lineup.


8a) Why Polanco won't bat 8th:

Because Manuel doesn't teach walks (see below), which means he probably doesn't realize Polanco is the Phillies' worst hitter in the lineup.



This will be a fun season.

8 comments:

Scott Graham said...

I like the part about the arms in LF.

I won't fully back your desire for Ruiz to bat first, but I certainly won't bash it by any means.

I checked Ruiz's OBPs from the last two years had he not gotten any IBBs (likely assuming he's batting in front of Utley/Victorino/Polanco), and they're pretty average.

He's definitely got great plate discipline, and deserves a bump up in the lineup.

Also, as we both assume, Victorino will probably fall into the 2-hole this year. I'm not really opposed to this even if it occurs due to dumb luck. He had a 129 OPS+ last year and that was after an abysmal September.

hk said...

One fallacy of the lineup optimization studies, which I discussed with Tom Tango via e-mail (and I believe I shared with Scott G) is that the forward-looking optimal lineup building is based on past statistics, compiled using non-optimal lineups. As a result, if teams had done what lineup optimization suggested and put their top OBP guys in the first two spots in the order, the 3-hole would have been a much more important spot. Therefore, if Ruiz batted 1st and Victorino batted 2nd, it would be perfectly acceptable to bat Utley 3rd if not for the other factor that you raise about batting Utley and Howard back-to-back and effectively turning a LOOGY into his twice as effective cousin, the LTOGY. Therefore, if they were going to bat Chooch first, a lineup of Chooch, Victorino, Utley, Pence, Howard, LF, Rollins, Polanco and the P might be optimal.

On a totally separate note, I would suggest that Andy Reid's mishandling of decisions on when to punt, kick a FG or go for it throughout a season are much more costly than Charlie not using an optimal lineup.

Andy Musser said...

Correct, but Andy Reid is actually ahead of the curve on those situations, going for it rather than punting more often than other coaches.

Rex Ryan punted on 4th and short from Giants territory with a 3 or 4point lead in week 16. It "paid off" when they pinned the Giants at the 1 yard line, but the Giants still had the ball, which is infinitely more important than field position, and they promptly went 99 yards for the go-ahead score.

Mike Smith punted from the Giants 41 yard line on 4th and less-than-1 with a 2-0 lead. The Giants scored on the next drive, and Atlanta never got a better scoring chance after the one they voluntary quit on.

Harbaugh punted with a 4-point lead from the Giants 41 yard line (it was the 46, but that was after he took an intentional delay of game penalty), which was a back-breaking mistake. Yes, the defense was playing well, but if you have that good a defense, you can start 60 yards from the end zone instead of 80. Plus, red-zone defense is generally the determinant between TD/non-TD drives, so the difference between bad and average field position is much less significant than if the Giants only needed 3 points to tie. The Giants, for the 3rd time in their last 5 games, received the ball because the other team's coach was too afraid to go for it on 4th and 1, and for the 3rd straight time, they crushed the decision with a TD drive.

Reid actually DID go for it in this situation in week 3 with the score 16-14, and due to McCoy's lateral cut-back behind the line, it failed.

Out of those 4 decisions, only Reid made the right one (and, of course, the only time the 'right' decision failed was when the Giants were on the 'wrong' end), and he got the most critcism, by far. In fact, Smith was actually critcized for when he DID go for it (correctly), later in that playoff game, even though had he originally tried to go up 9-0 instead of sitting on a goddamn 2-0 lead, the Giants might have self destructed.

Reid blows these 4th down calls too (the FG he called for at Chicago last year, the punt in New orleans in the Jeff Garcia game); I just don't think he does as often as the others around the league, although that could have more to do with job security than risk analysis.

As for the lineup optimization, I always thought the 3-slot was less important because of the number of bases-empty/2outs PAs, not necessarily because of the quality of batters in the 1-2 slots.

hk said...

In regards to your last comment, I think the number of bases empty / 2 out situations is a function of teams not necessarily putting their top OBP guys in the 1 and 2 spots (and actually putting them in the 3 spot). If the lead-off hitter is a .380 OBP guy and the 2-hole hitter is a .355 OBP guy, the 3-hole hitter will bat less with the bases empty and 2 outs.

As far as Andy Reid is concerned, my bigger complaints are when he went for the FG instead of going for a 1st down deep in the other team's territory. Going back to the Garcia game at NO, early in the 4th quarter and down by 6, the Eagles had 1 and 10 at the Saints 13. Westbrook ran for 9 yards on 1st down, after which the plan should have been TD or bust. After no gain and a 2 yard loss (on a pass to Thomas Tapeh of all people), they kicked the FG to cut the lead to 3. By throwing to Tapeh instead of pounding the ball two more times into the line, Reid basically said that he thinks he can give up the ball and score 2 FG's while holding NO scoreless. This was a huge mistake that led to his similarly huge mistake later in the game when he punted while losing.

There is a simple mathematical fact that Andy needs to learn. It is that 7 > 3 + 3. Once he learns that, he and his teams will be better off.

Andy Musser said...

Ahh, yes, that Westbrook run. One of the worst spots of all time. If he didn't get the first down (which I think he did), he definitely was within a half yard, certainly closer than the full yard short they marked him (isn't it a coincidence how often NFL players are tackled directly on top of yard lines, and not in between? Very considerate, those ball-carriers).

And, yes, Mike McCarthy made the same mistake in last year's Super Bowl, kicking the FG deep in Pitt territory to go up 6, when a TD ices the game, and a failed conversion gives Pitt 95 yards for the win instead of the ~70 yards after the kickoff.

As for the lineup, regardless of who is batting 1st or 2nd, the 3-hitter will always have the most PAs with bases-empty/2 outs of anyone on the team, simply because he is guaranteed to be batting "third in an inning" at least once per game. Also, since the pitcher bats 9th, he is likely to bat "third in an inning" multiple times in a game due to a) how often an inning "naturally" ends after a pitcher makes an out, and b) how often a manager chooses to walk the 8-batter, thus "artificially" ending the inning with the pitcher's spot, meaning yet another opportunity to bat with bases-empty/2outs/no runs in.

hk said...

Andy Reid has pulled the same mistake as McCarthy on multiple occasions, the first being at home vs. the Cardinals in the first game after 9/11. On 4th and 1 from deep in Cardinals territory, Reid kicked a FG to go up 6 forcing Jake Plummer to go for the TD, which he did to beat the Eagles in the last seconds. 3 + 3 is still < 7.

Andy Musser said...

First game after 9/11 was a blowout at Seattle; it may have been the first home game. But yeah, that was the Martay Jenkins game where Vincent missed the tackle at the goal line. I'm not saying Reid is better in those situations (3 pt lead and a FG/4th down attemppt decision) than the average coach, just that he goes for it on 4th down at midfield seemingly more often than others.

hk said...

Andy M.,

You're right that the 3-hole hitter is the likeliest batter in the lineup to bat with 2 outs and the bases empty (the lowest leverage situation); however, he is also more likely to bat in higher leverage situations than is the 2-hole hitter (if the manager puts his two best OBP guys 1st and 2nd in the order) throughout a game. Excluding HR's, if your lead-off guy has a .380 OBP and your 2-hole guy has a .355 OBP, there's a 60% chance that at least one of them will be on base when the 3-hole hitter comes up in the 1st inning whereas there's only a 38% chance that the lead-off hitter will reach base when the 2-hole hitter bats in the 1st. Later in the game, it becomes even more likely that the 3-hole hitter will bat with at least one man on as compared to the 2-hole hitter because the 2-hole hitter hits sooner after the pitcher. Therefore, if teams follow existing line-up optimization theory, much of which was based on past data accumulated with managers batting lesser hitters 2nd in the order, and bat high OBP guys 1 and 2, they will actually need a new line-up optimization theory because the 3-hole will take on much more importance.