One of the most highly debated managerial moves is the manager’s lineup.  When Dusty Baker was at the helm as the Reds skipper, his lineups were as controversial as any manager in the MLB.  Now that Dusty is gone, and Bryan is in, will we see a different, more saber-friendly lineup?

First, you must read Optimizing Your Lineup By The Book.  That is the primary basis for my optimal lineup that I will give you.  You may ask if lineups really matter all that much.  Well, according to The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, an optimized lineup can create an additional 10-15 runs per season.  An addition 10-15 runs could certainly net you a few additional wins, and a few additional wins could be the difference between reaching the playoffs, or just barely coming up short.

One of the most important things about an optimal lineup, is utilizing your strengths.  You want to put each player in the spot where he can have the most success.  One of the other important things is stacking your lineup at the top (not putting holes at the top of the lineup).  You want to attack a pitcher early, because that is your best chance of scoring runs.  Look at the disparity in 2013 of NL pitchers ERA by inning:

Split           ERA
1st inning 4.19
2nd inning 3.51
3rd inning  3.78
4th inning  3.93
5th inning  3.94
6th inning  3.83
7th inning  3.64
8th inning  3.51
9th inning  3.27
Ext inning  3.28

Here is my optimized lineup for the 2014 Reds:

1. Billy Hamilton, CF

2. Joey Votto, 1B

3. Todd Frazier, 3B

4. Jay Bruce, RF

5. Brandon Phillips, 2B

6. Ryan Ludwick/Chris Heisey, LF

7. Devin Mesoraco, C

8. Zack Cozart, SS

9. Pitcher


 

Let’s break down each spot:

1. Billy Hamilton, CF

While I don’t love Hamilton’s .308 OBP last season at AAA, I do believe he is the best leadoff option.  Hamilton is coming off a good spring, hitting .294/.356/.431.  When he gets on base, it will cause absolute havoc for the opponents pitcher/defense.  That in turn will help the heart of the order behind him see more fastballs, and have a less focused pitcher to face.  You don’t want to waste power in the leadoff spot, and you won’t have to worry about that with Hamilton.  He has only hit 13 HR in over 2,258 career PA in the minors (and I’m sure several of those were of the inside-the-park variety).

Other options: Skip Schumaker, Rodger Bernadenia, Todd Frazier

2. Joey Votto, 1B

“The best lineup protection is when Billy Hamilton is on base in front of me, and it’s not about protection, it’s that I get a more predictable pitch to hit — fastball,” Votto said. We’ve seen how it takes a perfect throw home, pop, and throw back to second to catch Billy Hamilton, so we know that the pitcher would rather throw a fast pitch home.”

That quote from Votto is from Joey Votto is Picking His Battles on fangraphs.  It is pretty apparent that Votto wants to hit directly behind Billy Hamilton.  The optimized lineup says that you should bat your best hitter second.  By batting Votto second in 2014, he would get around 18 additional PA over the course of the season.  For an offense that might have a difficult time scoring runs, getting Votto an extra 18 PA could be very beneficial.

Other options: None

3. Todd Frazier, 3B

I’ll save you from looking up his 2013 batting average, and shouting it at me in a rage of fury…….it was .234.  That batting average doesn’t tell you much about Todd Frazier.  As stated above in the quote, Votto doesn’t believe that protection is all that important, and he is mostly right.  I have three main reasons for batting Frazier third:

1) It starts with using your strengths.  Frazier hits LHP pretty well.  In his career, he has hit .271/.325/.503.  By batting Frazier in-between Votto and Bruce, you would allow Frazier to get PA against left-handed relievers late in the game.  He simply wouldn’t get that opportunity later in the lineup.  That is using your strengths to your advantage.

2) Believe it or not, Todd Frazier was actually the third best hitter on the Reds in 2013 (excluding Choo).  Frazier had a 96 OPS+ and a 100 wRC+ in 2013, which puts him right about league average offensively (Phillips had a 92 OPS+ and 91 wRC+ in 2013).  Frazier did all of that while have a down year, and an “unlucky” year.  Frazier’s BAbip was only .269 in 2013, down from .316 in 2012 (NL average BAbip in 2013 was .297).  While I doubt Frazier will get back up to his .316 BAbip rate from 2012, I would expect him to fall somewhere in the middle.  That would mean an already average offensive player would have his batting average raised around 20 points.

*The stat wRC+ is the best way to evaluate a players total offensive value, and you can read more about it here on fangraphs.

*The stat BAbip measures how many of a batter’s balls in play go for hits, and you can read more about it here on fangraphs.

3) Frazier knows how to walk.  His .314 OBP and 8.3% BB Percentage were 3rd on the Reds in 2013 (excluding Choo).  His 8.3% BB Percentage is above the league average of 7.7%.  It makes sense to put a guy higher in the order that can get on base more than others in the lineup.

Other options: Jay Bruce

4. Jay Bruce, RF

While I certainly would not have a problem with batting Bruce third, and stacking the lineup, I believe this is the best spot for him.  The optimal lineup says that the #4 spot in the order should be your second best hitter, behind the #2 spot.  Jay Bruce is clearly the Reds second best hitter.  I don’t think I need to say much more here.

Other options: Todd Frazier, Brandon Phillips (if you move Bruce to the #3 spot in the lineup)

5. Brandon Phillips, 2B

I’ll start by saying this: hitting Brandon Phillips second, like Price has done for the majority of the spring, is absolutely insane.  His .310 OBP in 2013 was below the league average of .315, and his 5.9% BB Percentage was well below the league average of 7.7%  His plate discipline is absolutely horrendous, and to make matters even worse, he hit .213/.253/.350 with the bases empty in 2013.  If Phillips is hitting second (behind Hamilton and in front of Votto), he will come up to the plate with the bases empty quite a bit. Once again, Votto will have limited chances to drive in runs, and Marty will crucify him.

This isn’t a hate on Dat Dude thread though. Phillips is still the Reds 4th best hitter in my estimation (behind Votto, Bruce, and Frazier), and if there is one thing he did really well in 2013: drive in runs. Why not use his best strength the best way possible?  By batting him 5th, he would have lots of chances to drive in runs, and wouldn’t be relied upon to get on base. Once again, this would be using your strengths to your advantage.

Other options: Ryan Ludwick/Chris Heisey

6. Ryan Ludwick/Chris Heisey, LF

From this point on in the lineup, it is pretty much just putting your remaining players in order of greatness. I put Heisey on here with Ludwick simply because I believe he is a better option everyday in LF than Ludwick.

Other options: Brandon Phillips

7. Devin Mesoraco, C

Mesoraco could certainly make the case to be moved up to 5th or 6th, if he has a breakout season.

Other options: Zack Cozart

8. Zack Cozart, SS

Cozart is without question the Reds projected worst hitter (he did however have a good finish to 2013). Some may say bat him 9th, and bat the pitcher 8th; that would not be using your strengths to your advantage. Cozart is horrendous at getting on base (.287 career OBP), and if you bat him 9th, then he is the leadoff hitter the second time through the order. Cozart has shown good power though, so by hitting him 8th he has a chance to hit a homer with runners on base,  If you hit him behind the pitcher, he wouldn’t get that opportunity very often.

Other options: Devin Mesoraco

9. Pitchers Spot

I would be all for putting Billy Hamilton 9th, if he struggles. That would take some of the pressure off him, and it would still make him the leadoff hitter from the second time through the order on.