Wasting Time with the Tampa Bay Rays Batting Order

If one were to make a list of things that receive substantially more attention than they should, batting orders would be near the top. Unless a team does something disastrous, such as having two players with sub-.330 on-base averages hit one-two.* Otherwise, the optimal lineup generates about one additional win per season. Nonetheless having re-read The Book's chapter on lineups and having nothing else to discuss, I figured I'd throw one out.

*One of the "perks" of being a fan of this organization is the history. No matter how extreme or poor of an example you need, this team almost never disappoints. Former top prospects turned into drug fiends, rapists, or bearers of rare medical disorders? Check! Awful lineups, defenses, rotations, bullpens? Fo'sure. Trading an excellent player for a manager? Do you even have to question it?

 

Leadoff

Obviously B.J. Upton because I very much want to maximize the amounts of time I see Upton make sweet, sweet magic at the plate. In all seriousness though, Upton is pretty close to a lock for an OBP over .380, there's just little reason to not bat him leadoff. Yeah, having his power up when baserunners are up would be nice, but you're leveraging his speed, power, and on-base skills nicely in this situation.

Second

Not Carl Crawford. Has nothing to do with his OBP because I'm not taking the OBPs into Excel, ordering in descent, then copying and pasting the results. Placing Crawford here seems to restrict the speed of Upton and Crawford. When both are on base at once, what are the Rays going to do - besides score a ton of runs - that takes the stolen base option completely out of the Rays gameplan. In that case, substitute Crawford with Carlos Pena for additional on-base skills and added power. Yes, Pena's power would be nice with more runners on, but again, remember who's behind him.

Third

Pat Burrell's on-base and power combination, simply because this puts three high OBP types in front of Evan Longoria...

Fourth

The least likely to draw a walk out of the top four, but also the one with the highest ISO.

Fifth

Carl Crawford slots in here. Crawford would be free to run and the Rays would be leveraging his speed by placing contact-heavy, power-questionable hitters behind him. That's not to say the ideal scenario involves guys without power following Carl, but that's just the way it is.

Sixth

Dioner Navarro

The Rays leader in Contact% last season at 88.9%. That means when Navarro swung at a pitch, he made contact ~9 out of 10 times.

Seventh

Gabe of the day. Because they're better hitters than Jason Bartlett.

Eighth

Because he's a worse hitter than either Gabe.

Ninth

Akinori Iwamura, because that whole "secondary leadoff hitter" thing actually has credence.

Conclusion

This is a pointless exercise either way, but I decided to run the lineup through Baseball Musings lineup analysis tool - developed in part by BTB alum Cy Morong - against last year's most used lineup. I used CHONE's projected slash lines for the "2009" lineup and 2008's stats for 2008. The results:

"2009": 5.307 runs per game.

2008: 5.164 runs per game .

Obviously, my theoretical lineup has the edge of a regressed Crawford and Bartlett along with the addition of Burrell, however the projection system is a bit down on Longoria, Pena, Navarro, and even Burrell, so maybe it evens out after all. We're only talking 23 runs over the season anyways which brings up another point, a lot of people have talked about how poor the Rays were with RISP last year. It's important to note that RISP hitting is not a repeatable skill, so for the Twins that's bad news, for the Rays that means expect a good bit of regression.

Now that I've wasted everyone's time, how about one more cheap plug for the guide. Tomorrow, ~7 A.M.

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