Optimizing the Pirates’ lineup

The Pirates lineup for their first spring training game will likely resemble the one that John Russell will scribble on his card on April 5th. Here is that lineup, with the DH replaced by a league average hitting pitcher. I included each player’s CHONE projection.

 


OBP SLG wOBA
1 Andrew McCutchen 0.365 0.445 0.357
2 Akinori Iwamura 0.365 0.393 0.340
3 Garrett Jones 0.324 0.476 0.346
4 Ryan Doumit 0.321 0.441 0.331
5 Lastings Milledge 0.345 0.423 0.338
6 Jeff Clement 0.342 0.460 0.350
7 Andy LaRoche 0.343 0.408 0.334
8 Ronny Cedeno 0.303 0.389 0.304
9 Pitcher 0.179 0.176 0.163
Runs per game
4.427

 

I have no major issues with this lineup, but I thought I would try to optimize it based on The Book. Here is what I came up with.

 

OBP SLG wOBA
1 Akinori Iwamura 0.365 0.393 0.340
2 Andrew McCutchen 0.365 0.445 0.357
3 Garrett Jones 0.324 0.476 0.346
4 Jeff Clement 0.342 0.460 0.350
5 Lastings Milledge 0.345 0.423 0.338
6 Ryan Doumit 0.321 0.441 0.331
7 Andy LaRoche 0.343 0.408 0.334
8 Ronny Cedeno 0.303 0.389 0.304
9 Pitcher 0.179 0.176 0.163
Runs per game
4.456

 

I flipped McCutchen and Iwamura at the top of the order. I am a fan of keeping McCutchen at the top of the order long-term, but it makes sense to drop him a spot in this situation. He and Iwamura are projected to have identical on-base percentages, so it makes sense to put the lower-power option in the leadoff spot. Clement is projected to be the best hitter not named McCutchen in 2010, so I slid him into the cleanup position. Jones’ low on-base, high power combination make him a nice player for the three spot. The 5 – 8 hitters are essentially placed from best to worst. I put Doumit sixth because I think he is likely to outperform his projection, when healthy.

It is clear from the runs per game numbers (which come from the Baseball Musings lineup analysis tool) that the batting order matters very little. Over a full season, we are talking about maybe five runs. It is very insignificant.

Here is the ideal lineup, according to the lineup optimizer.

 

OBP SLG wOBA
1 Andrew McCutchen 0.365 0.445 0.357
2 Jeff Clement 0.342 0.460 0.350
3 Andy LaRoche 0.343 0.408 0.334
4 Garrett Jones 0.324 0.476 0.346
5 Lastings Milledge 0.345 0.423 0.338
6 Ryan Doumit 0.321 0.441 0.331
7 Ronny Cedeno 0.303 0.389 0.304
8 Pitcher 0.179 0.176 0.163
9 Akinori Iwamura 0.365 0.393 0.340
Runs per game
4.628

 

Nothing all that surprising here, as the pitcher always ends up in the eighth spot. I had not previously considered batting Iwamura last, but it makes a bit of sense, as the ideal nine hitter is a high on-base guy with essentially no power.

This optimized lineup would be expected to score 4.628 runs. That is a relatively significant difference in a vacuum, but it is probably not enough to worry about in real life.

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