Bryan Price just came out with what will be his opening day lineup: Hamilton, Votto, Frazier, Mesoraco, Byrd, Bruce, Phillips, Cozart. I would give Price a B+ on that lineup. There are a lot of MLB managers who wouldn’t bat their best hitter second, but Bryan Price is doing just that. Price also made the difficult decision of batting his declining star Brandon Phillips 7th. Actually, maybe on second thought I should give Price an A-. I still believe there is some room for improvement. That is why for the second consecutive season I will give you the optimized Reds lineup.

Last season, my optimal lineup was: Hamilton, Votto, Frazier, Bruce, Phillips, Ludwick/Heisey, Mesoraco, Cozart, and the pitchers spot. I got some quibbles when I said that Todd Frazier (who had a .234 AVG in 2013) was the Reds third best hitter going into 2014. Frazier of course ended up being the Reds best or second best hitter in 2014, right along side with Devin Mesoraco. This years lineup will be drastically different than last season.

Here is what I said last year (and it still remains true) about an optimized 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.

Attacking the pitcher early is very important. In 2014, NL pitcher splits by inning are astounding.

  1. 4.21 ERA

  2. 3.11

  3. 3.30

  4. 3.89

  5. 3.88

  6. 4.01

  7. 3.68

  8. 3.50

  9. 3.26

This is why I believe that you simply can not give outs away in the first inning.


Here are some important numbers to consider about the Reds lineup. wRC+ is the best measure of players overall offensive value. Since projections don’t have wRC+, wOBA is very similar and the next best method.

splits

ZiPS


Based on all of the information we have available, here is the Reds most optimal lineups vs LHP and RHP:

optimal lineup


Here is the breakdown:

Leadoff

Joey Votto is the best choice to hit leadoff for the Reds right now. Steve Mancuso made the argument for this last season. Votto’s best spot would be #2 on most teams, but the Reds simply do not have a high on-base guy not named Votto. Joey Votto’s OBP projection is .417 in 2015 according to ZiPS. The next best on the team is Devin Mesoraco at .327 and Jay Bruce at .326. It is certainly not conventional to bat your best hitter leadoff, but for the Reds it would be the best option. Instead of criticizing Votto for what he isn’t (which really is not all that much), the Reds should utilize Votto’s best attribute in the most efficient way.

#2

I put Todd Frazier here for both LHP and RHP because he has proven to be an above average guy at getting on base. Last season, Frazier was the Reds best hitter over the course of the entire season (Mesoraco was better in a bit of a limited sample size). Not only can Frazier get on base, but he has the power to drive the ball. That is important because the guy hitting ahead of Frazier will be getting on base over 40% of the time.

#3

This is the conventional spot where you would put your best hitter, but data shows it actually isn’t all that important. I do however think if a team actually utilized their #1 and #2 spots properly, that there would be a lot more important at bats for the #3 hitter than mentioned in Optimizing Your Lineup By The Book.

Marlon Byrd is the guy I have vs LHP and RHP in the #3 spot. Byrd is actually projected to be the Reds 3rd best hitter vs LHP and the Reds 4th best hitter vs RHP.

Clean Up

Devin Mesoraco and Jay Bruce are the Reds two best sluggers vs LHP and RHP respectively. You want your best sluggers to hit in this spot. That is why they are here.

# 5

Phillips appears to be a better hitter vs LHP than Bruce, so that is why he gets the nod here vs lefties.

#6

The Phillips/Bruce platoon hits here.

#7 

The Zack Cozart show hits 7th. One thing that would help Cozart hitting in front of the pitcher would be that he will see more balls, and should be able to raise his OBP a bit.

#8

By batting the pitcher here, you make Billy Hamilton your leadoff hitter from the second time through the order on. You also don’t want your pitcher batting directly in front of you best hitter in Joey Votto.

#9 

Billy Hamilton has proved his worth as an everyday MLB player from his incredible defense. He however has not proved he is a leadoff hitter in the MLB. Hamilton only had a .292 OBP in 2014, and has a .255 OBP this spring (through Friday). The average OBP in the NL in 2014 (which includes pitchers!) was .312. There is simply no reason a guy who has proven to be below average at getting on base should be hitting in the one spot where getting on base is the most important thing.

22 Responses

  1. BigRedMachine

    I definitely was surprised with Price’s line up. I’m not going to claim to have done enough analysis to give out a letter grade but overall I’m very happy with it.

    I was especially interested to hear him say that Bruce’s position in the order would/could be adjusted based on if the opposing pitcher is a righty/lefty.

    For as much heat as Price gets on this blog, it is nice to see him definitely being influenced by modern thinking.

    • Jeff Slaughter

      If we are considering the “optimal lineup”, then why not look at who is affected most by defense (i.e. Jay Bruce with the shift). If Hamilton is in front of Bruce, you eliminate the shift when he is on base and eliminate the pitcher throwing him breaking balls. Bruce would generate the most benefit from hitting behind Hamilton. Both Votto and Frazier do not have these deficiencies. Bruce would also generate significantly more runs if he is getting more fastballs that would lead to more home runs. My lineup considering impact created by situational baseball and data based on career #s that impact runs scored:

      Votto (417 OBP, 334 RISP) downward trend, but best available
      Hamilton (297 OBP, 285 RISP) upward trend
      Bruce (324 OBP, 250 RISP) #s should increase with “Hamilton” effect
      Frazier (325 OBP, 250 RISP) upward trend
      Mesoraco (315 OBP, 250 RISP) upward trend
      Byrd (333 OBP, 273 RISP) downward trend
      Phillips (319 OBP, 284 RISP) downward trend
      Pitcher
      Cozart (281 OBP, 212 RISP) status quo

      Lefty pitcher considerations would move Hamilton to 6th and Bruce to 7th everyone else moves up.

      FYI: Baseball is not just stats, but significantly impacted by situations that can’t be predicted unless implemented.

  2. Redsfan48

    My opinion:

    Hamilton
    Votto
    Frazier/Mesoraco
    Mesoraco/Frazier
    Bruce
    Byrd
    Phillips
    Cozart

    • Thegaffer

      It sounds like it is better to have a LH lineup and a RH lineup, but most managers do not do this. I think Price has about the best you could do if you want to ignore the pitcher and have a single permanent lineup.

      While I think Hamilton at 9 is a decent idea, it does make the pitcher have to bat more. And there is more chance you have to pinch hit earlier in a game. Since we need our starters to go deep, I think this would overall be not a benefit.

      • Brad

        Possibly worse than the pitchers getting more at bats, Cozart would be getting more as well.

  3. scheffbd (@scheffbd)

    Here’s the ZiPS wRC+:
    Votto 147 wRC+
    Byrd 118 wRC+
    Bruce 118 wRC+
    Mesoraco 117 wRC+
    Frazier 116 wRC+
    Phillips 92 wRC+
    Hamilton 90 wRC+
    Cozart 77 wRC+

    Steamer has Byrd much lower, at 92 wRC+. I think he’ll be somewhere in between ZiPS and Steamer, and I’d swap him and Mesoraco in your batting orders.

    • Thegaffer

      This shows that the potential controversy of BP and Hamilton switching leadoff for 7 hole is moot.

  4. Pooter

    Does wRC+ take into consideration speed/steals? Or is it purely production at the plate?

    • scheffbd (@scheffbd)

      Batting only (singles, doubles, triples, HR, BB, HBP). Main difference between wRC+ and wOBA is wRC+ takes into account park factor and league.

      • Pooter

        My next question would be although BH has low wRC+ numbers, could his speed potentially make up for it?

      • scheffbd (@scheffbd)

        Hamilton’s performance in center field more than made up for his below-average hitting last season, based on UZR (defensive metric Fangraphs uses in calculating WAR). Speed has a lot to do with why he’s so good in center field, of course.
        Talking only about offense? To offset the hitting numbers he put up last year, Hamilton would need to steal a lot more and get caught a lot less frequently. 100 SB in 125 attempts (20% caught stealing rate vs 29% last year) is about what it would take just to make him a league-average player offensively. To make Hamilton as productive offensively as Todd Frazier, well… he’d have to do something ridiculous like steal 160 bases and NEVER get caught.
        Just guess how many bases he’d have to steal without getting caught to make him as much an offensive force as Votto was in 2013.

  5. bohdi87

    Agree with Nick’s lineup. Curious if there is a manager that would consider it in all of MLB though. Maddon or Melvin maybe?

    I can’t imagine what Marty B. would have to say.

  6. bohdi87

    Reynolds is the worst. I’m always flabbergasted at how a man who played the game can be so ignorant on the topic.

    • zaglamir

      That was true last year. I forget where I read it (I feel like it was FanGraphs, but can’t find it in a search) that timed home plate to first for all batters, and BP was the slowest of any Reds regulars (right below Meso).

    • big5ed

      Mes is definitely faster than Phillips. Phillips was fast 8 years ago, but hamstring injuries and ineffective weight training has left him pathetically slow.

      • JoshG

        Philips looks a little quicker this year, lost a little weight. and Mesoraco looks like he went the other way and maybe gained a few pounds

  7. Carl Sayre

    I was terribly disappointed in a lot of the moves and lack there of from Price last year but as I have stated Sparky could not have made that MASH unit competitive. Price putting this batting order out there is pretty savvy for what he has to work with. I hope as the season starts Hamilton starts to figure it out and that would be huge in helping us be competitive. GO REDS. Right now BIG BLUE is getting ready to tip so see you later.

  8. Jim Reed

    Well, don’t get Nick started on Marty because that;s a whole ‘nother column. Lol. I like Price’s open mind and I think he’s smart enough to change things up this year as needed because he’s not going to get another free pass like last year. Putting DDBP down in the order shows he’s going to sacrifice player’s feelings before his job–unlike D. Baker. Go Reds.

  9. Vanessa Galagnara

    I for one have always felt the best place to bat your pitcher is in the 8th slot.

  10. Marvin

    That guy is the worst. He was banging the same type of drum on the top 10 second basement right now the other night. He had BP as 5th or something based on his RBI total from the Choo/Votto season. Brian Kenny started to kind of argue the point, and tried to use wRC+ as one of his stats, but quickly realized Reynolds just flat out will never see it that way and sidestepped. I kind of wish he would have fought the good fight, but it would have just turned into the ESPN type of argumentative yammering.

  11. Frogger

    Good thoughtful article. I do not like batting Votto lead-off, but you make very good points and there simply is no alternative.