March 26, 2014

2014 Braves’ Batting Order by “The Book”

This is my annual post on how the Braves should arrange their batting order, based on research from “The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball.”  The basics of a batting order by “The Book” can be found here.  I also utilized Steamer projections, found on Fangraphs and at steamerprojections.com.

 

1. Justin Upton

2. Jason Heyward

3. Evan Gattis

4. Freddie Freeman

5. Chris Johnson

6. Andrelton Simmons

7. Dan Uggla

8. Pitcher

9. B.J. Upton

 

You want your best hitters hitting first, second and fourth.  Not surprisingly, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman are projected to be the three best hitters and three best on-base guys on the team.  Justin has the lowest projected slugging among the three, Heyward the second lowest and Freeman the highest.  So Justin leads off and the higher slugging guys follow.

The number five and three spots are for the next best hitter, with the better hitter hitting fifth, unless he hits a lot of homeruns.  Gattis and Johnson are the next best hitters, with Gattis more reliant on the homerun for his value and Johnson more reliant on other types of hits.  So Gattis fits nicely in “The Book’s” number three slot and Johnson in the number five slot.

The rest of the lineup is basically just filled with the better all-around hitters (according to Weighted On-Base Average) hitting highest, with the exception of the ol’ pitcher-in-the-eighth-spot thing.

It’s always fun to look at batting order, but here is a quote from one of the writers of “The Book,” Tom Tango, that nicely sums up how a team should approach its batting order.  This is from an answer to a question about batting order, from a May 2011 Baseball Prospectus chat:

The best way to set up your batting order is to put it in the optimal order (which means you have to have different batting lineups based on pitcher handedness), and then tweak it based on the ego of the players, because human impact is more important than leveraging two runs.

Fredi Gonzalez seems to like this lineup to start the season:

1. Jason Heyward

2. B.J. Upton

3. Freddie Freeman

4. Chris Johnson

5. Justin Upton

6. Dan Uggla (or Gattis)

7. Evan Gattis (or Uggla)

8. Andrelton Simmons

9. Pitcher

 

Following B.J.’s decent spring, it might be a good idea to hit him second, at least for a while, and put him right in the middle of things to start the season.  It’s a nice sign to a player that the team believes in him enough to put him in a key spot.  There has also been a lot of talk about Chris Johnson regressing, and he probably will.  But putting him in the cleanup spot early on could be a signal to him that the Braves believe in him, regardless of whether he’s a good hitter or he comes close to repeating last season’s performance.

The Braves have a solid core of four or five hitters, with three having a chance to be among the best hitters at their positions, and even the huge question marks of B.J. and Uggla have the potential to be good.  The big three of Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman could all be MVP candidates, which would go a long way towards helping this team hang with the Nationals.

 

 

8 Responses to “2014 Braves’ Batting Order by “The Book””

  1. 1
    Walker Says:

    I like the Book’s lineup better.

  2. 2
    Danny Says:

    I think Fredi’s got this one right. I like the potential of this lineup.

  3. 3
    Carter Says:

    So if you put Gattis and his .290 obp (lower than Uggla’s I believe) in front of Freeman in the four hole, doesn’t that do to things, in theory? 1) Negatively affects the increased number of runners on base for the 4 & 5 hitters.

    2) The book says that hitting in front of an elite hitter will hurt your numbers because pitchers don’t want to put you on base in that situation. If you move an elite guy like Freeman to the cleanup spot, doesn’t that drive the already low OBP of the Book’s number three hitter(Gattis) down even more?

    In theory, Gattis could have a catastrophically bad year in the three hole, with an elite hitter behind him. If that is the case, the percentage of time the four and five hitters hit with runners on base would decrease, would it not?

    It seems like the key is going to be the top two guys. I agree they need to be good hitters if you are batting your best hitter behind them.

    It’s all so confusing. I like Freeman hitting in the three hole, because I get to see him hit in the first inning!

  4. 4
    Shaun Says:

    Carter @3 – Research from “The Book” suggests that the number three spot is less important than other spots because the number three hitter comes to the plate so often with nobody on and two outs. So after you fill out the #1, #2 and #4 spots, you put you next best hitters at #5 and #3, with the better homerun hitter #3 and the better hitter in terms of everything else #5.

    I think Gattis is a good option for the #3 spot. However, I could see a scenario in which he’s so awful, he shouldn’t be there. Uggla, if he bounces back, could be a good option.

    I don’t think any of this is going to happen, mind you, even if it is the most optimal lineup according to the research. I just don’t think it’s worth all the hoopla that Fredi and the team would have to deal with trying to explain it.

  5. 5
    Carter Says:

    That makes sense, but wouldn’t you help alleviate the #3 hitter showing up with nobody on and two out, by putting better hitters at the #1 & #2 spots?

    Do you think it really matters that much? What type of a run difference do they project?

  6. 6
    Shaun Says:

    Carter, of course you could alleviate it some by putting good hitters in the top two spots. But you have to consider that the odds of any player, even the best players, making an out is fairly high. A .400 OBP means a 60 percent out percentage.

    No, batting order doesn’t matter that much. It’s just fun to suggest. And I do think teams should obviously try to suck every last base and every last run possible out of its hitters. If something is worth one extra base of the course of a season, it’s worth factoring into the decision making. Of course obviously there are other factors involved in making a batting order besides purely data-driven research. As Tango wrote, player egos and that sort of stuff matters; as does a manager or players constantly having to answer questions about an unconventional batting order, even if that batting order is the better way than the conventional way.

  7. 7
    Carter Says:

    Thanks for the insight. I must read this book. Go Braves!

  8. 8
    wayne canon Says:

    The only problem I see is that this isn’t fantasy baseball.

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