So lately there has been a lot of banter in the daily lineup threads about 1) who is in the starting lineup each game, and 2) the batting order itself.
This got me to thinking: where does each player tend to perform better in regard to where they are in the batting order? In other words, where do they seem to feel the most comfortable and where have they had the most success througout their career?
Most people have been a little confused with Sosh's decision to put VW in the 2-hole the past two games. Now, one could argue that Vernon shouldn't be in the lineup at all, but that is not what this analysis is about. Instead, I looked at where guys should be in the batting order if they are in the starting lineup on any given day.
Regarding younger players, keep in mind that the sample sizes are small and that they haven't had a chance to fully develop at the Major League level. I will simply tell you what the small sample size indicates to this point in their respective careers - choose to do with the information what you wish.
Essentially what I did was look at OPS and tOPS+. tOPS+ is relative to a player's total OPS+, where anything over 100 indicates that the player performed better than usual, and anything under 100 indicates that the player performed worse than usual. Here we are considering how they perform relative to their spot in the batting order.
After looking at each player I broke down each position in the batting order, 1-9, and inserted players who perform better than usual when batting at that place in the order. If a player only had a handful of starts at that spot in the order I didn't include it. Here are the results:
*only performed slightly worse than usual
Batting 1st: OBP SLG OPS tOPS+
Aybar .324 .386 .710 106
Bourjos .276 .467 .743 105
*Wells .331 .435 .766 96
*Izturis .334 .388 .721 98
Aybar .319 .418 .736 112
Bourjos .318 .475 .794 121
Izturis .348 .424 .772 112
Pujols .419 .616 1.035 101
Wells .332 .484 .817 106
Hunter .355 .459 .813 105
Wells .323 .475 .797 102
Kendrick .371 .425 .796 110
Morales .362 .534 .896 114
Hunter .331 .489 .819 104
Callaspo .352 .420 .772 115
Iannetta .387 .435 .821 110
Kendrick .340 .477 .812 112
Morales .352 .548 .900 114
Hunter .321 .506 .828 104
Callaspo .336 .399 .735 104
Izturis .397 .389 .786 117
Wells .318 .530 .848 112
Kendrick .348 .457 .805 110
Trumbo ..296 .493 .789 106
Hunter .339 .465 .804 101
Callaspo .356 .414 .771 114
Izturis .353 .398 .751 106
Bourjos .390 .605 .996 176 (13 GM)
*Iannetta .350 .434 .785 99
Kendrick .359 .491 .850 122
Bourjos .376 .463 .838 137
Callaspo .366 .405 .771 115
Izturis .347 .403 .750 106
*Iannetta .363 .415 .778 98
Aybar .335 .368 .703 104
Iannetta .420 .625 1.045 163
So what to take from all of this? The first thing I noticed was that not many guys like to bat 1st or 2nd, while we have plenty of guys who excel anywhere from 5th to 8th in the order.
Looking at leadoff, Aybar and Bourjos look to be the only two players on the team who perform better than usual in this position; however, Maicer and, surprisingly, Vernon (when in the lineup) should also be considered. The one thing not taken into account in this analysis is Mike Trout, who there simply isn't enough data on to make any sort of conclusion. For now, go with Trout whenever he is in the lineup, as Aybar and Bourjous, while better than usual, still are far from impressive leadoff hitters.
Now, for the highly-debated 2-hole. As many people have previously mentioned, VW is not the answer here. The good new is that both Aybar and Bourjos appear to perform better here than they do in the leadoff spot, and, with Trout in the lineup, they should be at the top of Mike's list of guys to plug in here. If Maicer is playing, he also performs well in the spot.
Batting 3rd: Pujols. End of discussion. In the case of an injury or rare day off, the ONLY other player on our team who performs better than usual in this spot is Vernon Wells. If he is in the lineup, why not? It has been a black hole anyway so far.
Cleanup. Two guys to look to - VW and TH. Hunter is the obvious first choice. Morales has actually performed terribly as a cleanup hitter (57 tOPS+). I don't buy into the whole L/R/L alternating batting order thing as much as some, so I'd rather see Kendrys moved down in favor of Torii.
Here is where the log-jam starts to manifest itself. I think it is safe to count out Iannetta, and Callaspo isn't an everyday player (but should be considered if he does play). Morales is essentially identically here and in the 6-hole. I say plug him in here. Howie is someone else to consider, as an everyday player.
Batting 6th: Howie Kendrick. tOPS+ of 112, has been showing us lately why he likes to hit here. When in the lineup consider Callaspo, Izturis, and Wells.
Next is the only place that Trumbo has proven to excel more than usual in the somewhat small sample size that we have. I like him batting 7th. Also consider Iannetta, whose tOPS+ is 99 at this spot. Bourjos, in 13 games, has mashed in the 7-hole, throwing up a .605 OPS.
We still have a lot of options at 8. Iannetta looks to be a solid option here. Callaspo and Izzy are also good fits. Kendrick has performed best at this spot in the lineup, but it seems a little too low in the order for him to really produce. Bourjos has also performed significantly well here, with an tOPS+ of 137.
We again find ourselves with few options in the second leadoff position. Aybar has performed decent here, while Iannetta has simply crushed the ball when batting 9th (1.045 OPS). Bourjos, who has hit 9th more than anywhere else in the lineup throughout his career, underachieves quite a bit with a tOPS+ of 72. It may be wise to avoid simply plugging him in here because his bat isn't producing at the moment if he feels more comfortable at toward the top of the lineup.
So, while this all depends on who plays on any given day, I think that Sosh should start paying attention to where guys feel the most comfortable in the batting order in an effort to maximize their output at the plate. Arbitrarily plugging VW into the 2-hole seems slightly moronic, when he has proven over a long career that he is uncomfortable there. The same goes for guys like Morales, who, for whatever reason, crush the ball when batting 5th or 6th, and underachieve in the cleanup spot. He made the change with Howie and it already is starting to pay dividends. I don't see why he shouldn't consider doing the same with other guys on the team.