Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 Cleveland Indians Lineup by The Book

Last year, Manny Acta made a splash by dropping Grady Sizemore to second in the batting order. This year, he's considering moving him back to leadoff. Is either the right move? And how should the rest of the lineup look?

The Book, one of the best sabermetric books you can find, did extensive work on lineup construction. Their main conclusion was that lineup order didn't matter too much, but it can be optimized for marginal gains. The Book's findings are summarized very well in this Beyond the Boxscore post.

To get the stats for Cleveland's upcoming season, I used the Cairo Projections, which are described (and available for download) here. The nice thing about version 0.5 of this years Cairos is that they include lefty/righty splits. It uses wOBA, which is decribed in detail in the new Frangraphs library. As you can see, wOBA is scaled to be comparable to batting average, with a .321 wOBA being the league average in 2010.

First, here's how the Indians lineup should look against lefties. I took the top nine players in terms of wOBA against lefties, and fortunately things worked out nicely in the field.
1Shin-Soo ChooRF.343
2Matt LaPorta1B.351
3Shelley DuncanLF.332
4Carlos SantanaC.346
5Austin KearnsCF.342
6Jayson Nix3B.327
7Asdrubal CabreraSS.326
8Travis HafnerDH.326
9Jason Donald2B.325

The glaring omission, of course, is Grady Sizemore. Cairo projects Sizemore to have a wOBA of only .309 against lefties. But if you insist on playing him (both in the name of fan interest, and so Kearns doesn't have to play center), you can remove Hafner from the lineup, DH Duncan, and move Donald up to eighth with Grady batting ninth.

Some other items of note:
  • Everyone in this lineup is projected to hit above a .321 wOBA. That's nice, but .321 was the average in 2010 against all pitchers. The average against lefties in 2011 may be higher or lower.
  • Indians fans should be especially pleased to see such a nice number for Matt LaPorta, especially after his struggles at the plate these past few years.
  • LaPorta and Santana have very similar numbers, but Santana has a slight edge in power, giving him the fourth spot over LaPorta. While Choo also has very good power, his on base percentage is just too good to put anywhere but first.

Now, the lineup against righthanders. Unfortunately I wasn't able to take just the best nine hitters this time. Michael Brantley and Travis Buck both rated ahead of Jack Hannahan. Brantley, Buck, and Duncan all rated ahead of Nix and Donald as well. But somebody has to play second and third base.
1Shin-Soo ChooRF.390
2Carlos SantanaC.359
3Matt LaPorta1B.332
4Grady SizemoreCF.363
5Travis HafnerDH.342
6Austin KearnsLF.322
7Asdrubal CabreraSS.318
8Jack Hannahan3B.309
9Jayson Nix2B.307

If you don't think Jack Hannahan is going to break camp with the Tribe, feel free to move Nix up a spot in the order and plug Jason Donald's .303 wOBA into the nine hole.

Notes on this lineup:
  • Choo blew everyone away in both on base percentage and slugging. But I chose to hit him leadoff, just to give our best hitter as many at bats as possible.
  • Believe it or not, Sizemore is expected to have better slugging numbers than Santana, and Santana better on base numbers than Sizemore. That's why Grady is hitting fourth and Carlos second.
  • Cabrera, Nix, and Hannahan/Donald will need to be good with the glove to make up for their below-average projections. Other than that, though, this isn't too bad a lineup.

Finally, for those interested, here are the numbers for a few key players who failed to crack either lineup:
namewOBAvs Lvs R
Michael Brantley.310.291.316
Travis Buck.306.288.312
Luis Valbuena.300.286.302
Trevor Crowe.289.283.290
Adam Everett.268.282.264