FanPost

The Optimal Lineup for the 2014 Royals

David Banks

Like many fans on this site, I was happy to see Dayton Moore ink the second-best free agent second baseman on the market. After so many years of sub-replacemant flotsam soiling the box score, seeing slightly-above-average play at second is rapture. Like many other fans on this site, I was dismayed when it seemed like an inevitability that Infante was going to bat second. A "bat control" guy, straight out of Ned Yost's dreams, to punch Aoki over to second base, while Hosmer and Gordon sit in the dugout. Hit-and-runs. Sacrifice bunts. And very, very, very few walks.

So, I did what anyone in my position would do: I wrote a software package to run computer simulations of baseball seasons in order to determine (1) what the best lineup the Royals could create was, and (2) how bad a decision it really was to put Infante second. I have many more details than you want to read about the code here, but for this post I'll just cut to the chase. Note that the code takes into account batting, base running, base stealing, strikeouts, walk rates, ground-to-flyball ratios, reaching base on error, and some more minor details, all built upon the prior three years of results.

From comments in the media about the attitudes of the Royals, and guesses at Rotochamp, the `consensus' lineup looks something like:

  1. Aoki
  2. Infante
  3. Gordon
  4. Butler
  5. Hosmer
  6. Perez
  7. Moustakas
  8. Cain
  9. Escobar

One fact I've learned about lineup construction is that there are lots of batting orders that will produce good results. This lineup is not one of them. Problems: (1) You don't get to the best hitters until the third spot. (2) Batting Hosmer fifth is criminal-- it reduces both his number of plate appearances and RBI opportunities. (3) Butler in the four-spot opens him up to too many double play opportunities.

There are 362,880 different possible ways to order nine men in a row. And after running five million simulated games for each of those lineups, the winner is:

  1. Gordon
  2. Hosmer
  3. Aoki
  4. Infante
  5. Perez
  6. Butler
  7. Moustakas
  8. Cain
  9. Escobar

This lineup probably isn't what you had in mind. In short: Gordon and Hosmer are the two best offensive players on the team (once baserunning is taken into account). So they go in the two most important slots. There's been a lot of talk, both on this site and elsewhere, about Billy Butler's speed. His inability to take the extra base and his propensity for double plays reduce his lineup options. Aoki may be a terrible base stealer, but he's good at avoiding the double play and, upon inspection, an above average baserunner. This leaves Infante in the cleanup spot, surprisingly enough.

But, as I said earlier, there are about 15 different lineups that are essentially indistinguishable in terms of overall runs over the course of the season. You can see them all here. And an intriguing result I learned from this exercise is that the leadoff spot faces the least number of double play opportunities. By far. Thus, a second option nearly the equivalent of the first looks like:

  1. Butler
  2. Aoki
  3. Gordon
  4. Hosmer
  5. Infante
  6. Perez
  7. Moustakas
  8. Cain
  9. Escobar

This is not a joke. (But you can laugh anyway.) Double plays are more costly than failing to take the extra base. The code knows all about how slow Butler is: he takes the extra base roughly 65% less often than an average player. But he has the highest on-base percentage on the team. There's much optimism about Perez being an offensive force going into the future, but he's almost as bad a baserunner as Butler. Make no mistake: either of these lineups will produce, on average, 11 more runs over the course of a 162-game season than the consensus lineup above. That's the equivalent of more than one win in the standings. One win the Royals can't afford to lose.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Royals Review

You must be a member of Royals Review to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Royals Review. You should read them.

Join Royals Review

You must be a member of Royals Review to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Royals Review. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker