Thursday, February 24, 2011

Optimizing the Seattle Mariners Lineup

"100 RBI or bust"
Yeah, I know - you read that headline and all the snark in the world comes to mind. Like, "how about get a hitter?" but since we're slogging through what seems to be an eternity waiting for even a shortened inter-squad game to begin, let's talk lineup.  Specifically, what that lineup ought to look like. 

I'm just spit-balling here, but I'd have to guess that the M's lineup headed into the season might look something like this:

Ichiro
Figgins
Cust
Guti
Smoak
Olivo
Bradley
Ryan
Wilson

There are a lot of interchangeable parts there - but you can probably cement the top two and the bottom two in stone. Cust is almost certainly your #3 hitter, but from there, it's anyone's guess. 

I'm using Bradley instead of Saunders or Gerut or Gross or any other of the dozen options they have in left field specifically so I could use the handy Baseball Musings Lineup Analysis Tool.  This tool will use wOBA (weighted on base average - it uses linear weights to assign a coefficient to every contribution that a batter makes, divided by plate appearances. Neat) and Slugging Percentage to come up with an optimal lineup relative to run production (not run prevention, however - so this isn't a wins above replacement argument, which is a good one when talking about Bradley vs. Saunders vs. Gerut vs. Gross vs. your Aunt Jennie).  Anyway, using any kind of goofy platoon situation in left made it difficult to use the tool, so just go with it. 

To simplify, I used Bill James' projections for the 2011 season (where he actually sees Bradley as more useful than Saunders to begin with, so there's another decent reason to use MB here). Here's what you get - the most optimal lineup for the Mariners, one that will score on average 4.439 runs per game:

Cust
Bradley
Ichiro
Olivo
Smoak
Wilson
Guti
Ryan
Figgins

Yes, Jack Cust, leadoff hitter.

In fact, there are 30 "best lineup" projections and in 23 of them, Jack Cust is the leadoff hitter.  In none of them is the leadoff hitter Ichiro or Figgins.  In 21 scenarios, Ichiro is your #3 hitter. 

What can we take away from this?  Well, that I'd wager my first, second, and third born that we will never, ever see this lineup on the field for the Mariners in 2011, or any season thereafter, or in any alternate universe (just in case Fringe is on to something).  However, it does lend some credibility to the notion that Ichiro is a little bit wasted in that leadoff slot and I have been wondering if Wedge would ever consider a lineup where he's more in a role as run producer than catalyst. 

Good stuff on a cold day to get you thinking about warm days and baseball, no?  Go find other projection systems and use the tool, it's fun.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Tom said...

What you can take away from this is that the system you used that determined that Cust is a lead off hitter is a severely FLAWED system ;) He is hardly capable of being a major league player let alone a lead off hitter ;)

Tom said...

Ichiro is NOT wasted in the lead off spot if you actually have some hitters behind him that can knock him in!!! That is the reason it looks like Ichiro shouldn't be lead off... he rarely scores any more because the lineup is so anemic! He should be a scoring machine and used to be!!!

Michael said...

Tom - well, this was done just in good fun. The reality of the situation is Cust will have the highest w/OBA and the highest SLG on the team unless someone surprises or Cust falls apart.

"The Book" by Tom Tango (who was once employed by the M's) has research that suggests you should put your best hitters in the 2 and 4 slot in order to optimize runs. In this case, you'd probably want to have Ichiro and Cust occupy those spots. But again, it's pretty unlikely that Ichiro moves out of leadoff.

K. L. said...

Sad to think that someone actually thinks Cust is one of our best hitters... where have you gone Edgar? ;)

Michael said...

"Someone" is actually the real world of baseball statistics. Look it up! Cust would have had the highest w/OBA of any Mariner in 2010.

in a just world, Cust will have a great year and still be our 3rd or 4th best hitter with Smoak breaking out, Ichiro having a huge year, and God knows who else emerging...

T.R. said...

This just shows you that you can't use some system to determine a line up!!!