In no small part due to injuries, Terry Collins was a lineup tinkerer last year. With the exception of Jose Reyes, every player moved around in the batting order, including Daniel Murphy who batted in every spot in the lineup except leadoff. Even Carlos Beltran did not have a stable spot, as he had 101 starts batting third and 36 batting fourth.
With Reyes gone, the question becomes who bats leadoff for the 2012 Mets. The default answer is Andres Torres because he’s fast and plays center field. Hey that’s the logic the Pirates used back in the late 1970s-early 1980s when they used Omar Moreno in the leadoff spot despite the fact that he finished with an OBP of .320 or lower four times in six years.
The dirty secret is that as long as you bat your pitcher in the bottom of the order, lineup construction does not make a huge difference. Still, there is a difference and while the Mets offense figures to be pretty good, there’s no reason to throw away 40-50 runs over the course of the season.
Here’s one guess as to the lineup that Collins uses on Opening Day:
Using the average of the players’ last three seasons, I plugged in their OBP and SLG into the lineup analysis tool over at Baseball Musings and it calculated the above lineup would score an average of 4.581 runs per game over a full season. So, Jason Bay had a .356/.447 line because his big 2009 season still entered the equation.
Anyway, how do you like this lineup?
That is the optimized lineup for the 2012 Mets and over a full season it projects to average 4.814 runs per game. That’s a difference of 38 runs over the course of the season over the lineup I speculated Collins actually would use.
It would have been interesting if the Mets had used David Wright as a leadoff hitter at some point after they moved to Citi Field. That way they could have told him to quit worrying about home runs, just worry about getting on-base and whatever homers you do hit will be a bonus. Perhaps then we wouldn’t have seen the massive increase in strikeouts which have robbed him of such a big part of his value the past three seasons.
Anyway, how about the worst possible lineup?
This lineup would average 4.324 runs per game or a difference of 80 runs from the optimized lineup over a full season. The calculator shows the top 30 and worst 30 lineups. In neither case does Torres bat leadoff. In the best lineups he bats either sixth or seventh. And this is calculating his OBP/SLG as .332/.436 when it was .312/.330 last year.
On the flip side, Torres batted second in six of the worst 30 lineups. He also batted third six times. The other 18 times he batted fifth.
Now, the point of this is not to trash Torres, who I’m glad will be playing CF for the Mets this season. It’s just to indicate that he should not be automatically considered to be the team’s best option at leadoff hitter just because Reyes is gone and no one else fits the established profile.
If we take the lineup first speculated but bat Josh Thole first and have Torres hit eighth, the projection is 4.605 runs per game. Remember, the lineup with Torres leading off produced 4.581 runs per game. There’s every reason to consider batting Thole first as there is Torres. If we instead bat Ruben Tejada first and Torres seventh, the projection is even better at 4.618 runs per game.
I hope Collins tinkers with his lineup just as much this year as he did in 2011. However, I hope he does it to figure out which combination he likes best, rather than being forced to do it due to a bunch of injuries. But I doubt that using Torres like he did Reyes in 2011, as the leadoff hitter every day he’s in the lineup, is in the best interest of the Mets.