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Guest Column: Lineup Ideas
2004-08-05 11:40
by alex ciepley

Loyal TCR Reader Scott de Brestian has taken a great in-depth look at the Cubs' lineup. He was kind enough to pass along his thoughts and I'm posting them up here for your reading pleasure. Discuss his ideas and observations in the comments!

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Recently, Eric Van posted a very interesting analysis of the Red Sox hitters on the Sons of Sam Horn discussion board in the aftermath of the Big Trade (See the Massive Batting Order Analysis thread). Since Dusty has tried about 1,325 different lineups this season, and has said that the Nomar trade brought to mind about 15 more, I decided to shamelessly plagiarize his techniques to look at the Cubs. Using Eric Vanís sabermetric tools, I will try and construct the ideal Cubs lineup. Any mathematical or interpretive errors are, of course, my own.

First thing Eric Van does is look at everybodyís RC/27 (Thatís Runs Created per 27 outs for those who may be wondering). Eric corrects for park effects but that is a bit beyond my skills. I don't think the results would change that much. I give the results for the last four years for the Cubs and two averages. One is simply the average of the last four years, the second is a three-year weighted average (3*2004+2*2003+1*2001)/6. This tells us who the best and worst hitters are. Eric also focuses on RHP but I didnít bother with splits.

              RUNS CREATED / 27
Player 2001 2002 2003 2004 Avg Wgt
----------------------------------------------
Sosa 11.51 8.32 6.74 7.48 8.51 7.37
Lee 5.55 6.51 6.94 6.82 6.46 6.81
Nomar 5.88 6.52 6.61 6.7 6.43 6.64
Aramis 6.7 3.4 4.96 7.48 5.64 5.96
Alou 7.73 4.96 5.8 6.33 6.21 5.93
Walker 5.48 5.55 4.9 6.36 5.57 5.74
Corey 3.19 3.91 6.03 4.96 4.52 5.14
Barrett 3.37 4.48 3.53 5.75 4.28 4.80
Grudz 4.34 3.56 5.53 3.62 4.26 4.25
Ramon 3.8 5.34 4.27 3.4 4.20 4.01
Macias 4.44 3.59 3.04 4.19 3.82 3.71
Goodwin 3.34 4.24 4.48 2.72 3.70 3.56
Bako 3.68 3.12 2.89 1.77 2.87 2.37

Comments:

Bako - His decline is pretty precipitous.

Barrett - Having a career year. His weighted average is probably closer to his true level, but still not bad.

Nomar - I see no decline here. If heís healthy, heís still good. This table omits his pre-2001 numbers, of course, when he was godlike.

Grudz - Up, down, up, down, up, down.

Ramirez - Hitting the snot out of the ball as we all know. We might expect a modest decline given his career numbers.

Patterson - The fact that he is going down while everyone else is going up makes him look worse than he is.

Sammy - Still the man.

Next, we look at who makes the fewest outs. We look at effective OBP: OBP minus CS (caught stealing). Top-of-the-order guys:

                  EFFECTIVE OBP
Player 2001 2002 2003 2004 Avg Wgt
------------------------------------------------
Sosa 0.426 0.378 0.333 0.351 0.372 0.350
Lee 0.314 0.345 0.353 0.337 0.337 0.344
Nomar 0.33 0.325 0.324 0.335 0.329 0.330
Alou 0.363 0.309 0.33 0.318 0.330 0.321
Grudz 0.31 0.366 0.301 0.317 0.324 0.320
Walker 0.319 0.332 0.305 0.324 0.320 0.319
Aramis 0.33 0.249 0.29 0.34 0.302 0.308
Ramon 0.303 0.33 0.305 0.287 0.306 0.300
Corey 0.259 0.266 0.3 0.299 0.281 0.294
Barrett 0.259 0.292 0.256 0.315 0.281 0.292
Goodwin 0.251 0.291 0.284 0.247 0.268 0.267
Bako 0.293 0.271 0.297 0.242 0.276 0.265
Macias 0.291 0.255 0.245 0.273 0.266 0.261

Nobody really stands out here - but we've known all along that the Cubs lack a real leadoff man. What this does tell us is that there isn't a lot of difference between batting Grudzielanek and Walker at the top of the order. Also, Patterson may be the worst choice of the everyday players who aren't catchers. Better hope he can alter his approach at the plate.

Now, letís look at the table-setters using Eric Vanís T-stat (Effective OBP-HR). These are guys who get on base and advance runners, but are not the power guys. Like Eric, I have measured this relative to league average. Above 1.00 means you are better than average, below 1.00 that you are worse.

            TABLE SETTERS (T-STAT)
Player 2001 2002 2003 2004 Avg Wgt
----------------------------------------------
Grudz 1.091 1.333 1.125 1.145 1.17 1.17
Nomar 1.076 1.096 1.074 1.159 1.10 1.12
Lee 1.056 1.139 1.128 1.087 1.10 1.11
Ramon 1.108 1.175 1.125 1.06 1.12 1.10
Walker 1.1 1.199 1.08 1.068 1.11 1.09
Alou 1.185 1.061 1.111 0.969 1.08 1.03
Sosa 1.202 1.105 0.975 1.024 1.08 1.02
Corey 0.872 0.925 0.994 1.033 0.96 1.00
Aramis 1.044 0.819 0.937 1.065 0.97 0.98
Goodwin 0.905 1.086 1.062 0.89 0.99 0.98
Bako 1.063 0.969 1.113 0.877 1.01 0.97
Barrett 0.94 0.993 0.808 1.051 0.95 0.96
Macias 1.048 0.894 0.879 0.985 0.95 0.93

You can see how dependent the Cubs are on the home run by how few of their players are above average (check the Red Sox figures for comparison). Itís not surprising to see Nomar and Lee near the top, but Grudzielanek and Martinez are a bit unexpected.

Finally, we see who is best at knocking in the runners. The formula here is pretty complicated: (H+ .75* 2B + 1.23 * (3B + HR))/Outs Made. In short, if you hit lots of doubles and homers you do well here. Again, this is relative to league average.

            RUN-KNOCKER-INERS
Player 2001 2002 2003 2004 Avg Wgt
------------------------------------------
Nomar 1.08 1.25 1.2 1.19 1.18 1.20
Sosa 1.56 1.22 1.13 1.22 1.28 1.19
Aramis 1.1 0.8 0.99 1.35 1.06 1.14
Lee 1.07 1.06 1.06 1.19 1.10 1.13
Alou 1.31 0.99 1.05 1.15 1.13 1.09
Walker 1.09 1.09 1.03 1.09 1.08 1.07
Corey 0.7 0.9 1.19 0.99 0.95 1.04
Goodwin 0.96 1.16 1.18 0.89 1.05 1.03
Barrett 0.87 0.91 0.78 1.1 0.92 0.96
Grudz 0.92 0.89 1.09 0.85 0.94 0.94
Macias 0.83 0.84 0.82 1.01 0.88 0.92
Ramon 0.82 1 0.91 0.78 0.88 0.86
Bako 0.78 0.77 0.8 0.55 0.73 0.67

Surprisingly, Sosa is not at the top of the list, although if you look at the year-by-year stats itís pretty obvious that he is usually the best choice for emptying the bases. The Cubs as a whole do pretty well in this category.

Here is a summary of how each player ranks in these four categories:

         SUMMARY
Player RC OBE T-set Kin
---------------------------
Alou 5 4 6 5
Aramis 4 7 9 3
Bako 13 12 11 13
Barrett 8 10 12 9
Corey 7 9 8 7
Goodwin 12 11 9 8
Grudz 9 5 1 10
Lee 2 2 3 4
Macias 11 13 13 11
Nomar 3 3 2 1
Ramon 9 8 4 12
Sosa 1 1 7 2
Walker 6 6 5 6

Constructing the Lineup:

Given the above information, we can work on constructing the ideal line-up. When Grudz is playing, it is fairly easy:

Grudzielanek
Nomar
Lee
Alou
Sosa
Ramirez
Patterson
Barrett
Pitcher
If Sosa won't bat 5th, flip him and Alou and let Ramirez bat him in.

What about when Walker plays? I'd like to throw out this for discussion:

Lee
Nomar
Alou
Walker
Sosa
Ramirez
Patterson
Barrett
Pitcher
Again, if Sosa wants to bat 4th, stick Walker between Ramirez and Patterson.

Finally, when Nomar is out, what do we do? Let's assume Walker is playing:

Lee
Alou
Walker
Sosa
Ramirez
Patterson
Martinez
Barrett
Pitcher

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