Should Terry Collins bat Andres Torres leadoff?

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:

Torres-Murphy-Davis-Wright-Duda-Bay-Thole-Tejada-Dickey

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?

Wright-Davis-Thole-Duda-Bay-Torres-Murphy-Pitcher-Tejada

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?

Pitcher-Thole-Murphy-Tejada-Torres-Bay-Davis-Wright-Duda

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.

4 comments for “Should Terry Collins bat Andres Torres leadoff?

  1. met fan
    January 15, 2012 at 11:55 am

    65-70 wins if Torres bats leadoff and 65-70 wins if Torres doesn’t bat leadoff! And you know what 65 wins might be a reach if Wright and others are traded at the deadline.

  2. NormE
    January 15, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    The batting order is nice to discuss on a winter’s day in January. However, the deciding factors in the Mets
    success, or lack of it, will be (1) pitching and (2) defense.
    On paper the starting pitching is full of ???????s. The bullpen looks to have been upgraded from Sept., but
    how will it hold up to starters not going 7+ innings?
    The defense has negatives at 2B, RF and, to a somewhat lesser degree, catching. CF, 1B, LF and SS are sound.
    3B has regressed, especially in the throwing dept.
    Analysis tools may show the Mets able to score runs based on previous production, but without Reyes as a spark
    and baserunning distraction, just how reliable are they?
    Predictions can be fun and distracting, but they have to play the games to get the answers.

  3. BigJer
    January 16, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Beltran started in the 3rd spot 101 times, and the 4th spot 34 times. Pretty good when he only played 98 games for the Mets, and you’re pointing to the way Collins juggles the lineup. And wow…statistics suggest the Mets would score 6 more runs over the course of 162 games with Tejada batting first instead of Torres. I guess that would be significant if baseball was played on a Xbox instead of a baseball field.

    • Brian Joura
      January 16, 2012 at 6:46 pm

      Fair enough – I just looked at Beltran’s overall splits without accounting for his time played with the Giants last year. Mea Culpa. FWIW, Beltran batted third 61 times and batted fourth 33 times with the Mets, with the other games being times he pinch-hit.

      As for the other thing you you complained about — you have to remember that the numbers I used are based on the past three years. So, Torres gets credit for 2009 and 2010, which were much better than what he did in 2011. Meanwhile, Tejada has his 2010, which was much worse than he did in 2011. If both players reproduce what they did in 2011, Tejada would be the much better choice as a leadoff hitter.

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