Building the Lineup

David Ortizphoto © 2008 Keith Allison | more info (via: Wylio)While adding the two best hitters this offseason the Red Sox also entered the season with an abundance of left handed hitters. This could cause problems in 2011 if not handled properly and so far I don’t think it has been. First I’m going to look at setting the best lineup and then the best “platoons” to get the most out of our options.

While we have some of the best lefties in baseball in the lineup we also bring a big weakness. While most right handers hit lefties better they need to hit right handers well enough since that is what they mainly face. Left handers just need to be best against the right handed pitchers. In 2010 the league splits looked like this in tOPS*:

RHB vs RHP: 95
RHB vs LHB: 106
LHB vs RHP: 104
LHB vs LHP: 88

*tOPS is the split relative to the players actual OPS.  So right handers hit lefties 11 percent better than they did against right handers.

This shows that left handers on average in 2010 would hit 16 percent worse against lefties than righties.  This is a large difference compared to the split seen by righties.  This shows us that counting on five left handers regularly against left handed starters is not the best idea.

First I ran the Lineup Analyzer at Baseball Musings and found based on the Oliver projections for OBP and SLG the best lineup is as follows:

Youkilis
Gonzalez
Crawford
Pedroia
Drew
Saltalamacchia
Ellsbury
Ortiz
Scutaro

This lineup would total around 5.685 runs per game or 920 runs in a full season.  That is a long way from the lineup we have or will ever see the 2011 Boston Red Sox send out on to the field.  We can be pretty sure the lineup will stick as it is or something close to it.  Even the worst lineup the analyzer could calculate would score 5.419 runs per game or 877 runs for the season.  Not a huge change and the current lineup would be in there somewhere between the two.

Regardless of the lineup we will have at least five lefties in the lineup most night and based on Tito’s choice on opening day they will switch only one lefty out against left handed pitching.  Is this the best way and who should sit the most?  I’m not going to leave any lefty out of this although I know it’s unlikely the big money guys sit more than a few games to stay rested.

Here is the tOPS splits for each of the left handed hitters based on career OPS:

Name         vs Lefty            vs Righty

Crawford      108                    79
Gonzalez       110                    80
Drew              108                   77
Ortiz             111                     73  (174/36 in 2010!)
Ellsbury         98                   103

I had to look at this a few times, but Ellsbury has been better against lefties so far in his career although in only 418 plate appearances.  There is no reason right now to look at Ellsbury as a player to sit against lefties.

The rest of the lineup looks like a fairly large, but similar split except Ortiz.  In his career he has been 38 percent better against righties, but that has gotten worse in the past few years and 2010 was amazing.  He hit 138 percent worse against left handers.  This was in 200 PA, so probably exaggerated, but still concerning.  Something to remember here is even though these hitters look worse against lefties this is compared to their own average.  In 2006 Ortiz had a tOPS split of 107/87, but his 87 tOPS was still a solid OPS of .988.

Based on his 2010 I would say it’s time to sit Ortiz against lefties.  I know this is a tough topic especially after hitting a home run off of a lefty on opening day, but Ortiz combined with a solid righty platoon in 2010 would have combined to be on of the best stat lines in the AL.  The choice to bat for Ortiz for me is Jed Lowrie.

In his oft injured and hampered career Lowrie has killed lefty pitching in 197 PA.  His tOPS split is 76/147 with an OPS of .907 against left handed pitchers.  This has flexibility as well as Lowrie could take any infield position and allow that player to take a day at DH.

Based on tOPS I don’t see an obvious player to “platoon”, but looking at career OPS Gonzalez and Drew have been solid against lefties with .783 and .793 respectively.  While not atrocious Crawford has the lowest OPS against left handers at .695.

While this roster based on projections should score 5.4-5.6 runs a game we should be putting the best team out there each chance we can.  Unless they see something that Ortiz has found his bat against left handers I would think the best lineup uses Lowrie and Cameron in place of Ortiz and Crawford.

Let’s be honest though.  The team will not do this as Ortiz can be touchy when it comes to playing time and the team(mainly ownership) considers him a hero who will get what he requests.  At the same time Crawford cost the Red Sox a lot of money and fans will surely be raising a lot of questions if he starts sitting against left handers each time.

Tito took the easy way in game one and three by sitting the fan goat in J.D. Drew.  There won’t be a lot of question or complaints from most fans when it comes to this move.  Cameron for Drew does make the lineup stronger, but I think we can say for sure it’s not the best lineup we could create.

Categories: Adrian Gonzalez Boston Red Sox Carl Crawford David Ortiz J.D. Drew Jacoby Ellsbury

After taking an interest in sabermetrics and statistical analysis Troy began trying to use it to an advantage in fantasy baseball. He started the website RotoSavants.com and also spent time at HardballTimes.com and FantasyPros911.com. After a few years the interest in the Red Sox drew him to start a Red Sox-oriented site (Yawkey Way Academy) with fellow writer Lee Perrault. A short time later he joined Fire Brand. Writer from: December 14, 2009 – July 24, 2010, March 3, 2011 – May 10, 2012.

3 Responses to “Building the Lineup” Subscribe

  1. Chip Buck April 4, 2011 at 5:21 AM #

    Great article. I love that Baseball Musings lineup analyzer.

    You're right about Ortiz. He does get a little touchy about playing time. Unfortunately, his production against lefties over the past three seasons doesn't justify playing him in most of those situations. I know some will point to his home run on opening day to justify his inclusion in the lineup, but that was one PA. Anyone can look good for one PA. In the other three PAs he was clearly cheating, and seemed to flail aimlessly at pitches. The result? Two groundouts and one strikeout. While I'm not one to take too much from a 3 PA sample, that will likely be far more representative of what we should expect out of Ortiz against LHP.

    I don't want to minimize the potential psychological effects that could come from sitting Ortiz (although I think it's probably minimal), but it seems the Sox are putting his feelings ahead of what's best for the team. If he's truly the leader most fans think he is, he'd have no choice to accept his new role with the team, should they approach him about a platoon situation.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. SweetSpot Roundup 4/5 | Japan Baseball 2 - April 11, 2011

    [...] or because the ballpark hates him], then he is.’? Fire Brand of the AL (Red Sox): Building the Lineup Good stuff by Troy on the Red Sox’ lineups, and minimizing the negative impact of their [...]

  2. SweetSpot Roundup 4/5 | Japan Baseball 8 - April 12, 2011

    [...] or because the ballpark hates him], then he is.’? Fire Brand of the AL (Red Sox): Building the Lineup Good stuff by Troy on the Red Sox’ lineups, and minimizing the negative impact of their [...]