Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Lineup

The lineup in baseball is one of the primary game day jobs of the manager. You have to use what you have and move the pieces when you need to each and every game.

The leadoff is usually the man with the best OBP and speed. His job is to get on base and not get caught in a double play He is capable of a steal. The number 2 is the contact hitter who can move the leadoff ahead by hit or bunt and fast enough to not get thrown out at first. The three-hole is the player with the highest average and a sure hit. The 4 is the cleanup, the power guy, the home run hitter. The 5, 6,7, are guys who get RBI, who make contact and sacrifice fly’s. Basically the second half of the order is a mini version of the first half. The seven spot is a good spot for the catcher. The 8 is for the DH and the 9 spot is for a fast but weak hitter.

Some recent studies have shown that the strongest and weakest batters should be far apart in the line up and that the best hitter should actually be in the 2 spot. This would allow the best hitter more at bats. The weakest hitter should not be in the position of having to move the best hitter to home plate.

The Yankees had a standard lineup according to the above criteria. Jeter .313, Granderson .268, Teixeira .285, Cano .309, Swisher .253, Chavez .267, Posada.275, Martin .292 and Gardner at .260. With this order they have protected the heart of the order and Cano and Swisher the heavy bats. In the leadoff and contact roll they have speed and high OBP in Jeter and Granderson. Posada and Martin take up the 7 and 8 spots with the DH and Catcher. This leaves Gardner in the hole. With their overall averages and OBP this should produce runs and it did. They scored 6 runs. Should be enough to win most games.

So what of the Jay’s batting order? The Jay’s went a slightly different way at the Tuesday night game. We have Escobar .308, Snider .140, Bautista .308, Lind .231, Hill .242, Molina .318, Patterson .281, Encarnacion .277 and Nix .250. They moved up their big bat, Baustista, to the three hole.The leadoff, Escobar, has no stolen bases this season. So when he hit a home run it was a solo shot, nobody on. The leadoff should be able to be considered a threat on the bases. (Remember Ricky Henderson?) Snider, at the contact position, has had only four hits this season and (as of Tuesday) struck out now ten times with an average of .132. So in this spot he did not get on base to protect Bautista, thus the solo shot. Hill and Lind are doing better but still make too many strikeouts but have good OBP. The 6th thru 7th spots Molina, Patterson, Encarnacion DH and Nix are pretty standard fair for these positions. This order, however, produced 5 runs before changes were made.

A better order might have been Escobar, Hill, Lind, Bautista, Snider and then 6-9.
Still, things happen and Aaron Hill was taken out and Johnny Mac put in for the best play of the night. McDonald is the best utility player in the league and would shock every one with a bunt. And what a bunt it was! Then Snider gets a walk off in extra innings with a perfectly placed shallow split of the outfield, winning the game in extra innings 7-6.

What a nice game come back and such a pleasant way to keep the Yank’s on their toes. But the Jay’s original line up only produced 5 runs. Not enough to win in this match up where the Yankees have the highest run total in the league.

So how do you figure out a lineup? You can make righty-lefty match-ups, hot streaks vs slumps and figure in all of the above basic criteria. It is very fluid, with injuries and other unforeseen elements. The lineup that wins is the one that works.

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