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Lineup shuffling or a set lineup - which do you prefer?

What would your Royals lineup look like?

Los Angeles Angels v Kansas City Royals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Kansas City Royals have played 26 games so far this year and have used 26different starting lineups under new manager Matt Quatraro (and bench coach Paul Hoover filling in when Quatraro was unavailable due to COVID). The leadoff spot has been fairly stable with either Bobby Witt Jr. (20 times) or MJ Melendez (6 times), but five different hitters have hit second, fourth, and fifth in the lineup.

The Royals are one of just three teams to have a different lineup each game, along with the Pirates and Marlins.

Most lineups in baseball

Team Games Lineups Pct
Team Games Lineups Pct
KCR 26 26 100.0%
PIT 26 26 100.0%
MIA 26 26 100.0%
COL 26 25 96.2%
LAA 26 25 96.2%
OAK 26 25 96.2%
SFG 25 24 96.0%
DET 24 23 95.8%
NYY 26 24 92.3%
TBR 26 24 92.3%
BAL 25 23 92.0%
CIN 25 23 92.0%
CHC 24 22 91.7%
SDP 27 24 88.9%
LAD 26 23 88.5%
MIN 26 23 88.5%
STL 26 23 88.5%
CLE 25 22 88.0%
TOR 25 22 88.0%
WSN 24 21 87.5%
CHW 26 22 84.6%
TEX 25 21 84.0%
NYM 26 21 80.8%
HOU 25 20 80.0%
MIL 25 20 80.0%
ATL 26 20 76.9%
ARI 26 20 76.9%
SEA 25 19 76.0%
BOS 26 19 73.1%
PHI 26 18 69.2%

But you can see that most teams have a lot of different lineups, although the variations can well...vary. Just having a different #9 hitter counts as a different “lineup.”

Having different lineups isn’t inherently a bad thing, and one could argue it’s a good thing when you have a lot of unproven young players. Quatraro is looking for answers on a team that has had trouble generating runs, and in a season where contention is not really expected, it makes sense to try different solutions.

But some people definitely prefer a consistent, set lineup. Older fans may remember manager Bob Boone being slammed in the Kansas City Star by then-columnist Jeffrey Flanagan for his constant lineup shuffling - Flanny addressed him as “Abner Boonieday” for thinking he was reinventing the game of baseball.

And if you’re a close follower of the Royals, you know it’s also almost time to start playing our favorite summer game - ``Guess Bob Boone’s batting order. ‘’ All winners this season will receive a complimentary truckload of scorecards along with two gallons of white-out, courtesy of your friends who bring you the Boone-o-Meter.

For those who may have forgotten, the Royals’ skipper penciled in 152 different batting orders last season out of a possible 161 (one rainout wasn’t rescheduled).

That previous season, the 1996 Royals scored the fewest runs in the league. Perhaps Boone’s lineup shuffling was a factor or perhaps he was just looking to get more offense out of a lineup that featured light-hitting Tom Goodwin, Keith Lockhart, and David Howard.

If the Royals were to have a set lineup, what should it be? I plugged in ZIPS rest-of-the-season projections for the Royals into the Baseball Musings Lineup Optimizer. Here is the ideal lineup, with their projections included:

Optimal Lineup

Lineup OBA SLG
Lineup OBA SLG
1B Vinnie Pasquantino .356 .480
SS Bobby Witt Jr. .310 .458
LF Edward Olivares .316 .402
C Salvador Perez .308 .486
RF MJ Melendez .315 .446
DH Franmil Reyes .305 .446
3B Hunter Dozier .298 .403
2B Michael Massey .292 .379
CF Kyle Isbel .293 .373

This stacks all three lefties in the lineup with each other, not ideal for facing lefty relievers late in the game. I’m sure fans have thoughts about playing Hunter Dozier too! So what would be your optimal lineup? Should the Royals have a set lineup every night?