With the talk of starters yesterday, it got me thinking about potential batting orders. Now the value of setting the order is probably overrated. Aside from putting higher on-base guys at the top of the order, I’m not really sure how much sequencing actually matters. The only other real consideration I see is balancing left handed and right handed bats in the lineup to make late game pitching changes more difficult on the opposing manager.
This is my proposal for the most typical lineup, with minimal regard to platoon advantages:
The Tigers are still handicapped by a lack of left handed bats. The top of the order was the hardest for me to resolve. Certainly Curtis Granderson would receive some consideration as a leadoff hitter, and he could conceivable hit a little higher in the middle of the lineup. He’s batting 8th in this version just to best leverage his left-handedness.
Going with a heavy left handed platoon finds Chris Shelton on the bench in favor of Dmitri Young and Carlos Pena. Also, Curtis Granderson bubbles up to the top of the batting order. I’m not advocating benching Shelton against all right handed pitching, but this is the lineup I envision on the days that he rests.
If Logan is starting, I want it to be against left handed pitchers. Fortunately (I guess), the Tigers can field an entire lineup that hits from the right hand side. Unfortunately, most of their substitution options are also right handed (Vance Wilson, Omar Infante, Marcus Thames).
Now laying out a batting order is a pretty fruitless task, and yet it usually generates some healthy debate. The concept of a core line-up is actually pretty rare anyways. Thanks to the Bill James Handbook we know that Alan Trammell trotted out 119 Detroit Tiger line-ups last year. Despite all the injuries that was his lowest total over his tenure. And this wasn’t a habit exclusive to Detroit.
Out of the American League managers who made it through the whole season, only Mike Hargrove and Buck Showalter used fewer than 100 different lineups (and they were at 97 & 98 respectively). The same held true in the National League with the exception of two outliers, Charlie Manuel and Jack McKeon who used 80 and 87 different lineups.
While Trammell’s lineup variability was fairly common, his lack of platoon-ing (probably not a verb) was more pronounced than the rest of the league. His platoon percentage (the % of hitters who had a platoon advantage against the opposing starter) was 49%. That was the only mark in the American League below 50. Much of that was beyond Trammell’s control. His starting and backup catcher were both right handed. His back-up infielder, third baseman, and second sacker were all right handed. He just didn’t have a lot options.
The importance of the platoon advantage can certainly be debated. Afterall, Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox managed to do just fine with only a 51% platoon advantage.