Lineups used to be made under the ideal assumption no one would make an out. Light-hitting fast guy…then “handle the bat” guy…solid hitter 3rd…big bopper “cleans up” the bases.
Sounds like a heck of a first inning. The problem is that it rarely happens that way.
The lead off hitter comes to the plate with runners on base just 36% of the time, while no other spot in the order suffers this fate less than 44%. That’s significant, and not hard to believe since (a) it’s sure to happen in the 1st inning, and (2) the pitcher is “hitting” in front of the lead off batter.
The 3-hitter enjoys less at bats with runners on than the 4-hitter, partly because he comes up so often with 2-out and no one on base. It happens plenty in the first inning, and the pitcher donating outs in the 9-hole increases the odds of it happening again. In fact, the 5-hitter also its with runners on more so than #3.
The only counter to what data tells us is that the earlier you hit in the lineup, the quicker your spot comes up each time. You don’t want the game to end with batter at the plate who’s inferior to the one watching on deck. Less mistakes would be made by managers than are routinely made now, by simply stacking your best hitters in descending order—paying no mind to who steals bases (an attempt is rarely a smart numbers play), or who can bunt runners over (almost never a smart numbers play).
The Book says Number 2 and Number 4 are the most important spots relative to batting with runners on, while Numbers 1, 4, and 2, are most important relative to the importance of avoiding making an out.
Matt Carpenter should bat 2nd, and Steven Piscotty should bat 4th. They are the Cardinals best two hitters, and assign them between those spots leaning OBP for the 2-hole and SLG for the 4.
The data suggests Matt Holliday would drive in more runs batting 5th than 3rd.
So who bats 1st and 3rd?
Since there are no obvious answers, do you bat the pitcher 8th to justify pushing Carpenter and Piscotty to 1 and 3? That makes far more sense to me than splitting Aledmys Diaz and Carpenter with the pitcher’s spot. This is begging the opposition to pitch around Diaz, get the SP to make the third out, and ensure Carpenter bats with no one on base. Again.
(Yes, Diaz will regress, but we don’t know how much. Don’t we already know what Ruben Tejada is after 2,201 PAs of a SLG that’s less than his OBP? Jedd Gyorko vs RHP: 1,102 PAs of 223/279/385.)
Does a healthy Jhonny Peralta hit 3rd?
Should the lead off hitter be platoon play of match-ups: Hazelbieber vs RHP? Brandon Moss and his lack of a platoon split vs LHP? Tommy Pham? Pre-regression Aledmys Diaz? Clearly the approach-less Randal Grichuk and Kolten Wong belong in the 6-7-8 gang, regardless of their foot speed.
I’m not concerned with who’s “comfortable” in a certain spot in the order. The team that clusters its hits together better wins—not the team with the most hits.
Or the most comfort.