There are a lot of traditional "rules" for creating a lineup. In general, it seems like most traditional baseball analysts say that the leadoff hitter should be speedy, the second hitter should be a contact hitter, the 3-hole should belong to the best hitter on the team, cleanup should go to the best power hitter, and after that the team should just slot in their hitters in descending order of ability. The general importance of hitter quality is something like 3, 4, 2, 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 according to this line of thinking. Based on this, the Rays' 2011 lineup would probably look something like this:
Upton, being far and away the main stolen base threat, gets the leadoff spot. There's little question that Longoria is the Rays' best hitter (unless Manny has more left in his bat than everyone thinks) and it seems as though Damon provides the best combination of contact and actually being able to hit the ball for the 2-hole. Although there might be minor quibbling regarding the final spotting of this team, these are more or less the ultimate lineups we'd see from a traditionalist view.
In Tom Tango's The Book (which any of you statnerds should read immediately if you haven't already), he takes a look at how to optimize a lineup using statistical measures. Below the jump, we'll look at Tango's words of wisdom regarding optimizing a lineup and how this applies.
In a nutshell, Tango's analysis suggests that the first two slots should go to good OBP hitters (who are also good quality overall), the fourth and fifth are the next most important and should go to good power hitters, and the 3-hole should go to a home-run hitter who might not necessarily have the best OBP. From then on, descending order of hitter quality is a good idea. The general order of hitter quality according to this is something like 1, 2, 4, 5, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9 although obviously there is differing emphasis at different lineup spots. By this analysis, the 2011 Rays' lineups might look like:
Again, the individual spots here aren't as important as the general themes. In the end, most analysis suggests that lineup optimization makes a difference of about 5 to 10 runs a year, a nearly negligible amount. Additionally, Joe Maddon is known to vary quite a bit more than most managers in his day-to-day lineups. Still, lineup management is always fun to look at, and, as you are probably no doubt sick of hearing about by now, the Rays are all about taking that extra 2% when they can.