Saturday, February 26, 2005

Soriano and the leadoff spot 

My apologies for the updates being scarce lately...my real job is kicking my ass right now, and there hasn't been a lot of earth-shattering news of late (unless Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco talking about steroids floats your boat)...

The Alfonso Soriano situation is getting some attention, as Soriano is having problems mentally overcoming the hamstring injury he suffered at the end of last season, that cost him the last couple of weeks of the year. He apparently is tentative when he runs, concerned about hurting himself again.

Nevertheless, the starting second base job is his, and Buck Showalter is apparently planning on putting him in the leadoff spot in the lineup, to take advantage of his speed. This is disappointing...one would think that folks' infatuation with putting speedy, low-OBP guys in the leadoff spot died out around the same time Milli Vanilli did, but it looks like it will happen here.

Interestingly, James Click of BP has a new article on the effects of lineup ordering up on the BP website (and yes, it is the pay section, but you should be a BP premium subscriber anyway...it is well worth the money). Click acknowledges that precise ordering in a lineup doesn't have a huge impact on a team's run totals, but runs some models to determine how the impact that lineup construction does have shakes out. Specifically, he creates a lineup for a team consistenting of three Wily Mo Penas (low-OBP, high slugging), three Luis Castillos (high-OBP, low slugging), and three Morgan Ensbergs (average OBP and slugging). He then simulated 1000 seasons for each of the possible permutations of the lineups, then looks at the mean runs scored for each season.

When a Wily Mo Pena type is hitting in the leadoff slot, the mean runs scored for the team is lower than with a WMP-type in any other lineup slot, other than the 9th slot. He finds that the #2-5 slots greatly maximize the production from such a player.

Alfonso Soriano is, offensively, extremely similar to Wily Mo. Click's analysis would suggest that, by hitting Soriano in the leadoff slot, Buck is putting Soriano in one of the worst possible places for maximizes his impact on the offense.

Now, part of the problem is that the Rangers don't really have a traditional leadoff hitter -- one of the reasons that, for the past 8 months or so, I've been advocating trying to get Matt Lawton as the team's RF/leadoff hitter. With so many guys who hit for power and don't walk much (thank you, Rudy Jaramillo), you have a team of #5 hitters. Still, Mike Young is probably the best option for the leadoff slot, followed by Blalock, Mench, Teixeira, Soriano, the DH of the day, Hidalgo, Nix, and the catcher.

Regardless, though, this notion that we have to get speed at the top of the lineup, even if it means taking a power bat out of the middle of the lineup and putting a low-OBP hitter at the top of the lineup, is going to end up costing the Rangers some runs if Buck actually implements it.

In the BP article, is the amount of runs lost significant enough to warrant not putting Soriano at leadoff or would the same effect happen if M Young were batting leadoff?
are you saying that mench would bat third in your lineup? While i am a bug mench fan i dont think he is a number three hitter. I think soriano would do just fine leading off. His numbers dropped last year in a hitters ballpark. Something is not right and Buck may have an idea what to do. I like to think that i know alot about baseball but i know that buck has probably forgotten more than you or i know about baseball. Have a little trust in Buck. He messed with the lineup at the end of last year and we did alright.
While I haven't read Click's article, I've always thought that the smartest baserunner with a decent OBP should lead off. That would be Young, who isn't that much slower than Soriano, and who seldom makes a mistake on the bases. I'd hate to see scoring chances depleted by having a fast but poor baserunner in the 1-hole.
I agree with you that putting Sori in the leadoff spot is silly and hinders the team's chances of winning. In the leadoff spot, you don't want Edgar Martinez, but speed doesn't help you get to 1B that well.

But I wouldn't worry about seeing Sori there too often for a couple reasons.

First of all, he's not good at getting on base, and the brass will realize this.

Second, Buck is too much of a micro manager to have 1 lineup that he uses even half the season.

I would imagine that Delucci, as the DH or COF, will leadoff against RH'ed starters, against whom he posted a .355 OBP last season. That sets them up well to use MY, Blalock and Tex in the 2,3 and 4 spots. From there, the other OFers will alternate, followed by our fabulous catcher du jour. If Nix is sitting agasint lefties, Matthews might leadoff, though his splits were betting against Righties.

Agasint LH'ed batters, Sori might find himself leading, but he managed a .335 OBP against southpaws last year, and he's a pretty good bet to bounce up a bit this season.

I wouldn't lose any sleep over anything Buck says in ST. I'm still not more than 90% conveinced they won't trade Soriano before the season. He could just be posturing about leading Sori off to keep other teams in the mindset that he's integral to our year, and thus would have to pried away.
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