This won’t really be a long post about lineup construction. Plenty of pixels have been spent on the subject during Dusty Baker’s reign in the Queen City. Plus, mathematically speaking, the best lineups are completely ridiculous. Maybe LaRussa could get away with batting the pitcher 8th, but Dusty would never and probably could never bat Votto lead-off, with the pitcher sixth in the order. I wouldn’t even want that, no matter what the optimization algorithm says.
That’s not to say that I haven’t had some serious concerns about Dusty’s lineups, but I have high hopes for this season. In 2012, though, the ‘most common’ lineup was used for seven games: (according to baseball reference)
According to that old lineup analysis tool, which isn’t exactly brilliant, but is a lot of fun to play with, that lineup would produce an average of 4.53 runs per game, with the 2012 season numbers of each player plugged in. (I used Bronson Arroyo’s 2012 numbers in the pitcher spot, as they were sort of average for our starters). The actual Reds throughout the season produced about 4.12 runs per game – but that lineup was sort of last year’s best case lineup anyway. A lot of other games had Votto out entirely, or Rolen, Heisey, Cairo, or Mesoraco subbed in. That lineup analysis tool also had the best lineup scoring ~4.8 runs per game – but again, it creates a pretty ridiculous looking lineup.
With Shin-soo Choo in the fold to lead-off, we now have a guy who can really get on-base in the number one spot, but who has enough speed to please Dusty. I’m also hoping that having Ludwick and Frazier providing some more reliable power, Dusty could hit Phillips second and put Cozart in the back of the lineup with Hanigan, giving us: Choo, Phillips, Votto, Frazier, Bruce, Ludwick, Cozart, Hanigan, Pitcher. I mean, we can’t actually expect him to hit Votto and Bruce next to each other.
In the Lineup Analysis tool, that lineup (using Bill James projections) would produce 4.80 runs per game. Over 162 games, that’s a difference of over 40 runs. That’s pretty good. It’s not quite the ‘optimized’ lineup – but it’s a lot closer. The ‘best’ lineup of those players generated ~4.9 runs per game – and also featured Choo in the leadoff spot . (Even the worst possible lineup projects at about 4.46 runs per game.) That’s not nearly as big a gap as between the actual and ‘best’ in 2012. Cozart and Stubbs both made up or at least partially made up for shoddy hitting with excellent defense, but they definitely killed us at the top of the order last year.
I know this kind of lineup analysis is pretty passe, but I guess what I’m saying is: Shin-Soo Choo is good news for the lineup, for the offense, and for the Reds.