NY Sports Dog: Tweak the Lineup, Improve the Team

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tweak the Lineup, Improve the Team

One thing is for certain after the first week of the season--the lineup can be very, very good, and it just needs a simple tweak.

The question, as it always is with Jerry Manuel, is can he use numbers and not "feel" when he constructs his batting order?

To begin with, here is what the lineup should be:

Jose Reyes
Angel Pagan
David Wright
Jason Bay
Jeff Francoeur
Mike Jacobs/Fernando Tatis
Rod Barajas
Luis Castillo

The key here is to keep Pagan in the 2 hole and move Jacobs/Tatis to the 6 hole.

For a quick statistical rundown of why batting Angel Pagan second instead of Luis Castillo/Alex Cora makes sense, we'll start with the percentage of runners that scored.

Last year baserunners scored 13% of the time during Castillo at-bats, and that number jumped up to 18% for Pagan.  I'm sure you all had a few "Castillo moments" last year watching him take good pitches for strikes, or ground weakly or hit a soft liner that couldn't advance a runner...this stat partially shows the results of those feeble at-bats.

Pagan also led Castillo in Productive Outs (advancing or driving in a runner)--Pagan did this 44% of the time to 43% for Castillo. 

Well what about ability to sacrifice?  We know Castillo is a great bunter, but the numbers show that Pagan was at least as successful.  Pagan may not have the artistry that Castillo has in this department, but last year he was successful 71% of the time compared to 70% for Castillo.

Pagan was outstanding last year with runners in scoring position.  He batted .342 with a 1.004 OPS.  Castillo, on the other hand, hit .325 with RISP, but his OPS was only .774, meaning he was not nearly as productive as Pagan in this department.  To be fair, Castillo was certainly OK, but Pagan was simply great.

The last number we'll look at is double plays.

In 2009 Luis Castillo grounded into 15 double plays in 93 double play opportunities for a 16% clip (that number was 22% in 2008).  This is pretty awful for a 2 hole hitter.  Pagan, on the other hand, grounded into only 3 double plays in 35 opportunities, a 9% clip, and his career average is 5%.

The Mets need production--with Jerry trying to balance the lineup we get rally killing outs and double plays when statistics tell you that there would be an edge with a different lineup.

It's also important to note that Jerry doesn't have a clue as to how to tweak the base lineup above to maximize the Mets chances--I'll detail in a later article how yesterday's lineup was wrong based on the simplest of matchup stats.

Bottom line is the margins are razor thin, so any statistical advantage you can get MUST be taken.

That starts with the lineup.
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