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Game 31 Open Thread- Tigers (17-11) at Royals (10-20)

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Its a great day for gambling, with the Kentucky Derby getting kicked off (awful mixed metaphor, but until I start getting paid for this I don't care) early, with the big Mayweather-De La Hoya fight tonight. I strongly recommend poking around Bad Left Hook for fight info, analysis and everything boxing related. Thoughts on how Oscar can win, here. Bad Left Hook will be posting live during tonight's fight.

Boxing and Horse Racing? Like Larkin said of opening the collected works of Tennyson, its like stepping back into the nineteenth century.

Of course, the nation will also be riveted to Tigers-Royals, with the Royals a 120 bet on the moneyline.

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Theres been a fair amount of discussion this year about Bell's lineup and player usage patterns, a trope inspired in part by the incredible variety we've seen. The Royals have fielded 26 lineups and 29 batting orders through 30 games.

Despite this stunning degree of tweaking, what becomes apparent is that Bell is actually not being very wild or cretaive at all. The Royals lineup patterns are never quite the same, but, like beaches, county courthouses and contestants on Idol, they aren't really that different either. In part, this is most fascinating thing about the proliferating varieties: Bell's not actually doing anything very interesting, yet he's still finding a way to keep creating unique configurations.

There's a certain line of old-school thinking that suggests that this is a bad thing, that lineup roles need to be consistent so that players can become comfortable and effective in their roles. The new-school response is that most hitting roles -- such as the idea that a #2 hitter should be a good bat-control guy who doesn't strike out and can move the leadoff man over -- were fairly dumb and counter-productive anyway. What matters is simply getting the best players on the team as many chances to hit as possible.

Even if we grant that there are certain subtle issues in lineup construction -- lefty/righty concerns, OBP in front of SLG, etc. -- I think theres much to be said for this view. We might add in a coda that, somewhere between old-school and new-school is the idea that the bench needs to be kept active and the regulars need to be rested from time to time.

Overall, the manager's most important role is fielding the best team. With that in mind, lets look at Bell's player usage this season:

Royals by Team PA%

  1. DeJesus   12.1%
  2. Pena Jr.  10.1%
  3. Gordon    10.0%
  4. Teahen    10.0%
  5. Sweeney   8.4%
  6. Grudz     7.3%
  7. Gload     7.3%
  8. Brown     6.7%
  9. Buck      6.4%
  10. German   6.2%
  11. Shealy   5.2%
  12. Sanders  4.9%
  13. Larue    3.9%
  14. Butler   1.4%
  15. Costa    0.1%
That sinking feeling you've had that every time you look up Tony Pena Jr is hitting, it was fairly accurate.

Comparing the PA% numbers to the VORPr data is instructive. VORPr is the players VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) per game, a rate stat showing how many runs per game the player contributes above or below replacement level.

Royals by VORPr

1. Sanders .562
2. Buck .554
3. Butler .534
4. DeJesus .312
5. Gload .254
6. Teahen .143
7. German .117
8. Grudz .064
9. Sweeney -.014
10. Pena -.145
11. Gordon -.150
12. Brown -.363
13. Shealy -.471
14. Larue -.519
15. Costa -1.145

Quick Thoughts: The good news is that Butler and Gload are now eating into Brown and Shealy's horrible performances. The bad news is that Pena, Gordon (yes, sadly) and Sweeney are really hurting the team on a daily basis, while Teahen and Grudz haven't really been assets. Even if you hide Pena in the 9-hole, in the long-term that doesn't matter. Worse still, the team's two best per AB hitters are either injured (Sanders) or still fairly unproven (Buck).

Any more thoughts?