1. Russell Martin
2. Manny Ramirez
3. Orlando Hudson
4. Matt Kemp
5. Andre Ethier
6. Casey Blake
7. James Loney
8. Pitcher’s spot
9. Rafael Furcal
This is the line-up that gives the Dodgers the highest probability of maximizing runs scored. This does not mean that it will be the most efficient run producing line-up but it is the most likely to end up that way. (all of the stats used below are Marcel the Monkey’s projected 2009 stats – or at least really close to those projections)
Lead-off: Russell Martin. Martin is not the lead-off batter because of his speed. He is the lead-off batter because he gets on base with the second highest frequency of all the Dodgers (according to his 2009 projections – at the bottom). The most important value for a lead-off hitter is the ability to get on base. Juan Pierre may be extremely nimble but he is not very good at getting on base. Rafael Furcal, who Torre will inevitably cast at the top of the line-up, is fast and has a decent OBP ( .352) but Martin is better at getting on base (.378 projected OBP) and according to the work of Cyril Morong an increase of .021 in OBP (Martin is projected to be .026 better than Furcal) is worth an additional 10 runs per season which is roughly one extra win. Ask the Minnesota Twins or the New York Mets what the value of one extra win is.
2nd spot: Manny Ramirez. Ramirez is projected to have the highest OBP and SLG on the team. He is not the leadoff hitter (despite the .031 OBP advantage over Martin) because of his .527 slugging percentage. While batting Ramirez first would provide close to an additional 1 1/2 wins, it would also reduce the value of his excellent SLG. Batting Ramirez second will not only increase his plate appearances (the 2 spot had 17 extra plate appearances last season than the 3 spot for the Dodgers and 32 more than the 4 spot) but it will not be all that different than batting him 3rd as Furcal (if I had my way) will be in the 9 spot acting as a back of the line-up lead-off hitter.
3 spot: Orlando Hudson. With Martin and Ramirez batting 1 and 2, the 3 spot doesn’t need to be a power hitter. If both men are on, all that is needed is a single to drive in Martin. A successful at-bat for Hudson can even be to simply move the runners along so that the batters behind him can drive them in. If neither is on, Hudson’s job is to get on base so that Kemp and Ethier can move him around.
4 spot: Matt Kemp. Kemp provides a good OBP and SLG with speed. He is possibly the 2nd inning lead-off hitter and his stats are good enough that he is someone you don’t mind having at the plate with runners on-base. His ability to get on base 35% of the time makes him good at moving runners along and warrants his being in the top half of the line-up.
5 spot: Andre Ethier. With all 4 batters before him reaching base 35% of the time, Ethier should often be batting with runners on base. Ethier has a better OBP and SLG than Kemp which makes their situation mirror the Martin-Ramirez relationship. Like Kemp, Ethier is good at both moving runners along and driving them in.
6 spot: Casey Blake. Blake is the Orlando Hudson of the middle of the line-up. Like the pitching spot, he has to bat somewhere and it’s better to spread your weakness out than pile it all at the bottom. To many managers will stick two guys who can’t hit before the pitchers spot and create a dead zone in their line-up. Loney – who bats next – is a much better all around hitter than Blake, but batting the two weakest hitters back to back is not the best way to maximize runs.
7 spot: James Loney: see Blake. (also, Loney and Kemp are interchangeable in this line-up as switching them results in the same number of projected runs per game)
8 spot: Pitcher. Pitchers should bat 8th. Any NL manager who doesn’t bat his pitcher 8th is not doing his best to help his team win. The odds of a manger not batting his fastest guy first are pretty small, but the advantages of hitting the pitcher 8th should be easy and obvious.
9th spot: Rafael Furcal. This is the second lead-off spot. Furcal is fast and creates problems when he gets on base, but he doesn’t get on base enough to warrant batting in the 1 spot. As a bonus to Torre, every time Furcal leads off an inning, Ramirez will bat 3rd which is where Torre thinks he is most valuable anyway.
This, of course, will never happen as managers – like Joe Torre – continue to use their blinders when it comes to hearing about the value of parting ways with the traditional batting-orders they grew up with. St. Louis and Milwaukee have at least broken the seal on batting the pitcher 8th. Seeing an untraditional batting order is likely years off but perhaps sooner than later we won’t be seeing the pitcher in the 9 spot anymore. That, at the least, will be a good start.
Using David Pinto’s line-up analysis tool the above line-up projects out to 5.360 runs per game. The line-up below, which is much more realistic due to Torre’s lack of imagination, projects to 5.161 runs per game. Over a 162-game season that is an additional 32 runs which could be 3 additional wins.
The projected OBP and SLG used for this exercise are as follows:
David Pinto’s take on batting the pitcher 8th
Tom Ruane’s work on optimal line-ups
Dugout Central’s take on why the pitcher shouldn’t bat 8th