Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Filling out our lineup card

Here's the thing about point our accusing finger at The Manager: As your didactic grandma might say, you end up with three fingers pointing back at you.

Ultimately, we'd concur with some of the kids who noted that The Manager doesn't have the most spectacular depth of resources from which to choose, and when taken in the context of the guys at his disposal, it's not totally nutty-cuckoo to think that José Bautista might be the most appropriate leadoff hitter on the team.

Our quarrel with The Manager, we suppose, has less to do with his actual tactics and more to do with the process by which he arrives at them. In some ways, we'd rather hear The Manager make a sound and rational explanation for the wrong move than to stumble blind into the right one. As MLB.com's Cory Schwartz is fond of saying: "Don't confuse the process with the outcome."

As yesterday went on, and folks challenged us to come up with a better lineup, we were given some pause. Could we actually fill out a better lineup? And does it even matter?

We're supposing here that lineup construction does matter, because we don't put a ton of faith in the projection systems. (And that's a whole other series of posts that we'll get into eventually.) As such, here's the two basic lineups that we would fill out for the Jays for the initial first few months of the season.

On the typical day, when they'll see a righty, we'd send them out like this:

1. Overbay, 1B: Lyle-O has the best OBP of any hitter on the team, and we'd rather have a guy who can get on base and move along with the offense behind him as opposed to a guy who gets on at a sub-.300 clip and can steal a bag here or there.

2. Hill, 2B: Wait...what?? Yeah, you read right. We'd far prefer to have Hill hitting fourth or fifth behind Adam Lind. If Vernon Wells were to demonstrate that he was able to make solid contact on a regular basis, we'd move him up here.

3. Lind, LF: Yeah, we'd put Lind in the field, and we'd leave him third in the lineup. At least, we would in this lineup, to keep a left-right balance. Plus, Lind still brings a high OBP, so keeping him towards the front of the lineup (rather than fourth, as we'd prefer) isn't the worst sin ever.

4. Ruiz, DH: Get some guys on in front of Ruiz, and let's just see what sort of monkeyshines he can create. If he struggles in the first month, maybe you move him down to sixth in the lineup, but we'd be willing to take a shot on a guy who hit a homer every 11.5 ABs and who slugged .615 in his limited time in the Bigs.

5. Snider, RF: Once again, we're leaning on a left-right-left lineup construction towards the top of the order. Plus, we'd like to put the Great Rosy-Cheeked Hope right in the middle of the lineup and let him learn by putting pressure on him, rather than "protecting" him further down the order and keeping him on the bench against lefties.

6. Encarnacion, 3B: We've run out of lefties at this point, so we're pretty much just taking the best bat available. Encarnacion stands out to us as a guy who could have a pleasantly surprising year. Moreover, he sports a career OBP of .341, higher than Wells' .329. He'd be a guy that we'd watch closely in the first few weeks, but we'd be willing to take the shot on letting him produce from the bottom third of the lineup.

7. Wells, CF: We'd like to put Vernon down a bit farther in the lineup to create an atmosphere where his free swinging ways can create runs if the guys ahead of him get on base. If his wrist is right and his swing comes back and if he doesn't look like he's gorged himself on Texas barbecue all winter, we'd consider moving him up the second, or sixth or even (gasp!) cleanup. But he's got to prove it first.

8. Buck, C: Because of the two dudes left, he's the better hitter.

9. Gonzalez, SS: Great glove.

And on those odd days, when they get a right-brained southpaw, we'd send them to the plate in this order:

1. Bautista, RF: Wait, isn't this what The Manager said? Well, yeah. But we'd reserve this spot for when at LHP toes the rubber, given JoBau's career .360 OBP and .478 SLG versus lefties.

2. Hill, 2B: Again? Yeah, for pretty much the reasons listed above. And it makes us wonder if the Jays didn't miss out big time on Johnny Damon. Although we're willing to let the Tigers that that $8 million gamble.

3. Lind, DH: No real change...

4. Ruiz, 1B: ...Though we'd let Ruiz have his turn in the field and sit Overbay, so long as he is here.

5. Wells, CF: We bump Wells up versus lefties, given his career .859 OPS (.364/.495) against them.

6. Encarnacion, 3B: Eddie's numbers against lefties actually stack up against Wells' (.370/.461), but we'll give the nod to Vernon given his higher slugging.

7. Snider, LF: We'd keep him in the lineup, and let him work his shit out versus lefties. Because if he's the face of the franchise, he's going to have to start hitting them sooner or later.

8. Buck, C: Well...Where else are you going to put him?

9. Gonzalez, SS: Nice glove.

As always, your input is warmly welcomed. (So long as you agree with us and flatter us along the way.)

39 comments:

Bwilly said...

2 things stand out.

Overbay at leadoff because he has the best OBP of any hitter on the team. Even he has come out and says he does not do well in those situations because pitchers attack more and he's a patient hitter. Which makes sense, so I would think if you plan on hitting him there he won't have the best OBP on the team, which is the reason you're putting him there. Its a circular argument I guess.

Ruiz - how many games have you got him playing? Even if he does succeed, which he may, come 2 years when the Jays look to compete will he be around? I'd like him strictly platooning with Overbay, until a trade of Overbay can be made. Than call up Dopirak and let the hot bat dictate who plays.

Tao of Stieb said...

I'm not worried about two years down the road, I'm worried about today's game. And if my best option is Randy Ruiz, then 2013 can take care of itself...I'm sending Ruiz out there as often as possible, so long as he hits.

And, unlike The Manager, I'll adjust the lineup based on what I see.

As for the "circular" argument, I don't think that it is as simple as you've point out. With men on base, pitchers are going to be more aggressive and throw more strikes as well.

But I do take the point...Overbay might actually be a "dumb" patient hitter, which is to say that he prefers to go into an at bat with the knowledge that he's going to keep his bat on his shoulder for as long as he can, rather than taking his at bat pitch by pitch.

Chris said...

Did you know that out of the players with at least 100 AB's last season, Randy Ruiz had the third best OPS?

Get that man in the lineup!

Anonymous said...

So it is a platoon between Overbay and JoBau in the lineup at this point; dont think that would do the Jays any good if they are looking to trade both at the trade deadline. They are both not in the immediate future of the Jays plan, and any chance to play their trade value up is better. I say play both regularly until they suck badly; if both did ok, trade them at least you can then try Ruiz as you suggest in the 2nd half

tercet said...

Even though everyone beside Cito wants to play Ruiz, Cito doesn't. Cito has a man crush on Bautista, which means Ruiz will be lucky to get more then 200abs this season unfortunately.

Tao of Stieb said...

If I were to set and forget this lineup, Overbay would get about 400 ABs and Bautista about 200. That's more than enough to establish their value.

In addition, this isn't like giving a hockey goalie extra starts or giving a player extra ice time to showcase him. Both Overbay and JoBau have a track record, and there's realy no need to sacrifice day-to-day success for some magical mystical return that you're going to get in an imaginary trade.

Dustin McGowan's Sideburns said...

I'd put Wells in the leadoff spot and let him hack away. Worst case scenario, we start a rally with one out that even the mighty Wells couldnt kill. (unless we bat around that is, but wed have scored a few runs by then, so I'd be ok with it.)

I really like Vernon Wells, but his decline in productivity is killing me inside.

I hope he bounces back. Honest.

brainiac said...

Wells as lead off is certainly an experiment worth trying...

Anonymous said...

You feel good about bouncing Snider between left and right? I don't.

Bwilly said...

"Overbay might actually be a "dumb" patient hitter", I'd probably call it working the count.
Take a look at last years splits for him.
Batting 7th 183 ABs 39 BBs .391 OBP.
Batting 4 thru 6 236 ABs 24 BBs OBP .330ish.
When the C and SS are hitting behind you the pitchers are not going to be near as agressive as when Hill/Lind are there. I just think Overbays high OBP is because of his ability to work a walk, and batting him leadoff would hinder his approach that he uses to work those walks.

And if you play Ruiz in 2010 because he is the best option regardless of 2013, than why is the manager lambasted for thinking Tallet deserves a shot at a rotation spot? He could be the best option for 2010.

Tao of Stieb said...

Not to twist my own logic (or that of my smarter blogging compatriots) too much, but I think there is a real difference in how you work with hitters versus pitchers.

From the time a pitcher is drafted until they hit their peak, it can be 8 to 10 years, and half of that development is going to have to happen at the MLB level.

I think you still have to put together the best 12 man staff you can to win on any given day, but there may be some excuses for leaving something in the tank for later.

To make a more specific point: We'd freak out if we saw The Manager leave Raul Chavez in to hit with a man on 2nd down by a run in the ninth with Randy Ruiz on the bench. (This actually happened.)

But if we saw The Manager take a pitcher out or skip a pitcher's spot in the rotation to preserve them for down the road, we'd get that.

And besides: As much as we love Tallet, we'd rather have him as a swingman in the bullpen and start the season with Brett Cecil in the rotation.

Anonymous said...

On the plus side, those possible lineups don't totally disgust me...on the downside, there is a 0.0 percent chance of them happening...The Manager shows no desire to adapt according to the situation or the assets he has at hand...

I'm all for giving Ruiz some serious ABs in the middle of the lineup - he'll either get exposed, or we've got ourselves a surprise thumper in the lineup...as for The Contract, the LOGICAL thing would be to put him at 6th or so in the lineup - there's no way putting him up at the top can be justified at this point...Overbay in the #2 spot would seem to be the best use of his OBP and patience at the plate...

As for Tallet, if he is in the rotation in April, then something has gone horribly wrong...love the guy, but he is much more effective and useful in the 'pen, and if there aren't 5 guys out of Romero, Marcum, Morrow, Cecil, R-zep, McGowan, and Purcey that are better options, it's been a BAD spring...

Tao of Stieb said...

I don't usually praise the comments of anonymous commenters, but...

I totally agree that Overbay fits best hitting second. But the lack of a leadoff option kinda pushes him up one slot.

I know it is a little crazy, but I can actually by JoBau as the full time leadoff guy, followed by Overbay, Lind, Hill, and work it out from there.

Also, I agree with the commenter above on moving Snider back and forth from left to right and back. Although I'd really like to see him get the shot to prove himself in right. He's played there for most of his career, and he looks lean and mean in Bastian's pics.

I believe in Travis Snider.

Ice Cream Jonsey said...

I guess what is really frustrating is that Mench, Wilkerson, Millar and Dellucci were given a lot of at-bats and sucked immediately. Ruiz puts up some of the best rate stats in baseball last year, and rather than make the opposition spend time figuring him out, we're gonna bench him.

Cito's comments have lead me to believe that he's making the sort of lineup NY and Boston would make for us if they got to control how the card was filled out. Bautista lead-off! Gonzalez second! Wells cleanup! Sit Snider and Ruiz!

If Cito says he's considering DHing Gaithright occasionally, to get him reps, that's not much worse than his other ideas for the lineup.

Ice Cream Jonsey said...

Oh, and the lineup I predict Cito goes with on day one is Bautista LF, Hill 2B, Lind DH, Wells CF, Overbay 1B, Encarnación 3B, Gonzalez, Snider and Buck.

The Ack said...

If this team and roster were still chock full of Menchersons, Delluccis, and Millars, I'd probably sit back and enjoy the batshit loony antics of The Manager.

Basically, I'd probably be content if the edict came down that he is to play Snider every fucking day in the outfield and let Walton handle the rotation. Sleep in the dugout after that for all I care. Oh, wait...

The Ack said...

(the above is a lie, by the way. I'll be losing it by mid-April I'm sure...)

Oh, and where does this gap-powered, can't hit lefties Cuban first baseman the Jays are apparently - wait for it - "in on" fit?

Anonymous said...

Overbay bat 2nd will just clog up the base path. he does not break up double play well due to his slow foot speed. he is at his best when he is working the count, you need a consistent contact hitter to be in the 2 hole. pitchers will just keep pounding the strike zone to the 2nd hitter. So unless Overbay gets back to his old 40-50 gap-to-gap doubles self, there is almost no hope in batting him 2nd.

Overbay is best suited to be on a contending team batting 6 or 7; he lengthen lineup and play good D at 1st.

Stedron said...

Why not get Snider up in the lineup just for protection sake? If I'm a pitcher looking at Buck and Gonzalez following him in the lineup, he isn't getting shit to hit.

andy mc said...

These lineups seem very familiar to me... not that you stole them from me, but because they are the best possible lineups, the ones most likely to produce some very good baseball from our Jays.

That is exactly why Cito won't use them - as Wilner told me in January, and told you as anon. 1:53 (I bet that was him, EXACT same answer).

I have since resigned myself to the fact that Clarence will utilize JoBau as the everyday RF and leadoff guy, and strangely, I have come around to the idea. JoBau plays great defence, and seemed to have a great eye when working counts in the leadoff position last season.

Having a plan at the plate is The Manager's philosphy (as well as Gene Tenace's, who was the OBP king at one time). I think they helped Scutaro develop that eye, and have done/will do the same with JoBau.

The Jose Bautista Appreciation Society may be celebrating soon.

Apu said...

professor griff disagrees with your assessment of Ruiz. Therefore, this post is fatally flawed.

Thank you. Come again!

andy mc said...

btw, they are the EXACT same lineups, see Wilner's "Better in the Bahamas" post, comment #35.

andy mc said...

too bad Gene Tenace is gone, maybe.

andy mc said...

oops, not EXACTLY the same, mine was better ;)

same idea though... overbay/jobau "platoon", ruiz cleanup 1B/DH etc...

Dustin McGowan's Sideburns said...

I wonder how Jayson Werth would look in a Jays uniform right about now...

JB said...

Great job, Tao. This is exactly how I would have the lineup.

Tao of Stieb said...

@DustyLambchops

Nevermind Jayson Werth. Live in the now.

Bwilly said...

I can forgive/forget giving up on Werth, because JP was able to unload Rios

Anonymous said...

Uh, Bwilly. Tallet pretty much sucked as a starter, outside of 3-4 games.

Ruiz didn't suck.

Pretty simple, no?

I think this is a great lineup. I read somewhere today that they were considering Overbay for leadoff.

Capn said...

I just can't fathom Overbay at leadoff.

Looking at Bautista's splits from a full season in 2007, he was almost equally as bad vs RH and LH: .253 vs. RH and .256 vs. LH. He figured out lefties last year, maybe this year he figures out righties...HOPE!!!

Is there anyone from the minors -ANYONE- at Spring Training who has a chance at blowing the doors off the place and winning a leadoff job? How difficult would it be to beat out a Bautista or Encarcion or A-Gonz, Pt II?

It would be a good blog topic, hint-hint.

Tao of Stieb said...

Well, those are batting averages, and who the hell pays attention to AVG anymore?

In '07, Bautista put up a .331 OBP vs RHP (which is okay) and a .366 OBP vs LHP (which is pretty good, if not top of the charts.)

And given the state of the 25 and 40 man rosters, and the non-roster invitees, and the performances of their prospects last year, no...there's probably nobody who is going to blow the roof off the dump this Spring.

Except for Brett Wallace.

Bwilly said...

No, Tallet overall wasn't pretty. But he was expecting to be a reliever and hit a career high for innings pitched in a season at the end of May, (and actually the month of may overall was pretty decent)

Skill level wasn't my point. Cito gets ripped to shreds for saying he's letting Tallet compete for a rotation spot because its not in the best interest of the future, but he could be the best option for 2010. Yet people are calling for Ruiz to get huge playing time even though he isn't the best option for the future but for present the 2010 season.

Personally I'd like Tallet back in the pen and I'm rooting for Dopirak this spring. (the guy actually had a pretty good 09 in the minors)

andy mc said...

Capn and Tao: Mike McCoy.

Tao of Stieb said...

Yeah, McCoy would probaby be the best bet, but even then, I wouldn't anticipate him putting up a huge year.

I'd like to be wrong, though. I like surprises.

Fuck Face said...

Hey Tao

Cito's gonna fill out your momma cause your dad can't get it up anymore.

Drew - LtB said...

Cito gets killed over Tallet because he'd block any number of promising arms. Ruiz as the DH doesn't block anyone, really. The only downside is keeping Lind in the field. They aren't the same situations.

Oh, and clogs the bases! Amazing. Breaking up double plays <<<<<<<<<< getting on base

Weezy said...

^^All I ask is that they give McCoy and Ruiz a chance....and I still don't buy this not part of the future crap....I've heard GM's have this thing they can do where they talk players into putting their names on papers, then theses players are with the team for a specified amount of time. That crazy thing may just work if, on the odd chance, a player like McCoy actually turns out to be good. (Ruiz is actually a different story as it doesn't look like there will be a long term spot....but fuck it, play him, trade him)

Capn said...

Touche, Tao. I'm merely pointing out that Bautista's splits haven't always been as extreme as last year's. Who says Cito will take him out vs. RH's? Especially if he's "comfortable" hitting there...

Now that you mention it, he had the same OBP vs RH last year as 07 (0.331)...even with an AVG dangerously close to the Mendoza line.

Dustin said...

Touche, Tao. I'm merely pointing out that Bautista's splits haven't always been as extreme as last year's. Who says Cito will take him out vs. RH's? Especially if he's "comfortable" hitting there... Now that you mention it, he had the same OBP vs RH last year as 07 (0.331)...even with an AVG dangerously close to the Mendoza line.