Time and time again, we’ve come to the same conclusion about the 2007 Pirates: They’ll go as far as the top of the order carries them. We’re not worried about Sanchez, LaRoche and Bay. We’re confident that our starting rotation can at least achieve mediocrity. We lost our closer, but our bullpen is still a strength. It’s Duffy and Wilson that make us nervous.
I decided to take a look at the 2006 Pirates to find out how the team did with different players at the top of the order. Back to the Retrosheet method–counting, tallying and concluding.
For the purposes of this study, I went through the 162 box scores from last season and recorded the names of anyone who started a game batting first or second. Roll call:
1. Chris Duffy, 72 games; Jose Bautista, 44; Nate McLouth, 43; Jack Wilson, 1; Freddy Sanchez, 1.
2. Jack Wilson, 127 games; Jose Bautista, 14; Nate McLouth, 10; Jose Hernandez, 4; Joe Randa, 3; Freddy Sanchez, 3; Chris Duffy, 1.
I broke the season into two halves, with the All-Star break as a divider. For each half, I tallied the number of games started per player in either spot and the number of times the team won with the player in that spot. For the sake of brevity, there are 162 games at #1, 162 games at #2 and 134 wins to be divided (twice the total of 67).
As an example: The Pirates lost on Opening Day with Duffy at #1 and Wilson at #2. They each got a game tally, but no win. When they finally won on April 9th, Duffy and Wilson were at #1 and #2 again–so they each got a win tally in addition to another game tally.
Now, a not-so-fancy chart that displays the results:
The first two columns are the numbers for the first half, then the second half, then the full year. Everyone who started a game in either of the two spots is listed. As for the Pirates, they were 30-60 in the first half, 37-35 in the second and 67-95 on the year. Those winning percentages are .333, .514 and .414.
A few stats that pop out at me:
- The Pirates got thumped when Bautista was leading off. They did better when he was batting second.
- Duffy’s second half winning percentage (.490) wasn’t that far off of the Pirates’ pace. Similarly, Wilson’s full year percentage wasn’t that far off of the final standings. They got the lion’s share of at bats in those situations, so that makes sense.
- Nate McLouth was a stud at the top of the order in the second half. If the Pirates could go McLouth-McLouth-Sanchez-LaRoche, they might be a contender. Then again, they could flop if Nate turns out to be another first-half dud.
- By winning percentages, the best orders would be: McLouth-Bautista, McLouth-Wilson, Duffy-Bautista, Duffy-McLouth, Duffy-Wilson.
I also kept track of the games where Duffy led off and Jack hit second. In the first half, the Bucs were 8-12 in those games (a good bit better than 30-60). In the second half, they were 17-17, only slightly behind the .514 pace. For the season, they were 25-30. That projects to 73.6 wins over the course of a full year.
There wasnt a whole lot to prove, I supposeand Im not sure I even proved anything. There are dozens of variables that contribute to a game, not just the batting order. I thought it was interesting, though, to see how the team did with players in different spots in the order. This study could go much more in depth (after all there are eight position players in an order). Maybe thatll happen on another slow news day.
By the way, feel free to put the memo on Jim Tracy’s desk: If Duffy or Wilson falters, pencil in Nate at the top of the order. It looks as if he might have the skill set to be a decent table-setter.