Lately, I’ve talked some about lineup construction and the traditional approach to filling out the batting order and an optimized lineup. Perhaps the biggest difference is that most teams bat their best hitter third while the optimized lineup would have that hitter batting second or fourth. The optimized lineup is the result of thousands of simulations to see where in the order on-base percentage is more important and where slugging is preferred.

Let’s take last night’s Mets lineup. Terry Collins trotted out this order:

Jose Reyes
Justin Turner
David Wright
Lucas Duda
Angel Pagan
Jason Bay
Nick Evans
Josh Thole
Mike Pelfrey

There are no major surprises there. The only thing worth pointing out is that Turner is back in the second spot after spending some time recently batting eighth. But second is where he’s hit in the order for the majority of the year, so it’s not shocking to see him there again.

Using the Baseball Musings Lineup Analysis, which asks for the OBP and SLG of each player, the lineup Collins used Tuesday is calculated to average 4.343 runs per game. Of course, it’s important to understand that this is taking the current OBP and SLG numbers and using these for a full season, as if they were the “true talent” levels of the individuals in question.

So, this tool accepts that Evans is really a .390/.500 hitter and that Wright is really a .352/.440 guy.

This lineup tool also calculates what the optimized lineup would be. What would you think if Collins had this batting order instead?

Thole
Evans
Wright
Reyes
Duda
Bay
Turner
Pagan
Pelfrey

That optimized lineup would score 4.464 runs per game. The calculator also says that Bay and Turner could flip positions and it would have no difference on the runs scored. Over a 162-game season this optimized lineup would score 19 more runs (723-704) than the one that Collins used.

On the flip side, this is the worst possible lineup that could be created:

Pagan
Pelfrey
Thole
Bay
Turner
Evans
Duda
Wright
Reyes

That lineup would average 3.991 runs per game and would score 647 runs in a 162-game season. The calculator shows the top 30 and bottom 30 lineup configurations and each one of the bottom 30 has Pelfrey batting second.

Let’s try to create the worst lineup while batting the pitcher ninth. How’s this sound for ugliness?

Bay
Turner
Pagan
Thole
Wright
Duda
Reyes
Evans
Pelfrey

This features the guys with the three worst OBPs batting in the top three spots and the guy with the worst-remaining SLG hitting cleanup. The bottom of the order has the higher OBP guys batting last. This lineup averages 4.283 runs per game and would score 694 runs in a 162-game season, only 10 worse than the actual lineup used by Collins Tuesday night.

Generally speaking, as long as you bat your pitcher in the bottom of the order the rest of the spots are not going to make a huge difference. It’s surprising that all of the best lineup configurations had Pelfrey batting ninth. Frequently, moving the pitcher to the 8th slot increases scoring ever-so slightly. But Pelfrey is so bad with the bat, he is an exception.

However, it would be nice to have a better hitter in the second spot in the order.

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Here’s a link to the Baseball Musings calculator with Tuesday night’s Mets lineup already entered.

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