02 April 2013

Looking at Lineup Construction and the Move to Bat Machado Second

I tend to focus on batting lineups a little too much when something seems off. And I wouldn't say that batting Manny Machado second is necessarily a bad decision, but I was legitimately surprised when the opening day lineup was announced yesterday. Maybe I simply dismissed that move as an unrealistic option. For anyone who missed it, the O's will be sending out the following lineup against lefty David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays today:

Nick Markakis, RF
Manny Machado, 3B
Adam Jones, CF
Matt Wieters, C
Chris Davis, 1B
J.J. Hardy, SS
Nolan Reimold, LF
Steve Pearce, DH
Brian Roberts, 2B

A few notes on the lineup:

1) I'm glad to see Markakis leading off. He's the best on this team at getting on base, and he should be batting as many times as possible.

2) I'm also a fan of Roberts in the ninth slot. Sure, he used to bat leadoff and was very good at it, but until he can prove himself again, there's nothing wrong with him hitting last. Regardless, it'll be interesting to see how he plays and it's hard not to root for him to both stay healthy and contribute.

3) Buck Showalter smartly moved Hardy down the lineup. Hardy's not adept at reaching base (career .314 OBP), so he certainly shouldn't bat second like he did all of last season. It would be helpful if his power returned, though.

As hinted at above, the unexpected part of the lineup is Machado batting second and Reimold batting seventh. One reason I can think of for the decision is this:

Machado vs. LHP: 53 PA, .344 wOBA
Reimold vs. LHP: 321 PA, .339 wOBA

Sample size is an issue, but their numbers aren't that different, anyway. Then again, Hardy has a career .351 wOBA against lefties and he'll be batting sixth, so the split stats explanation might be inconsequential. Machado being the everyday third baseman also may factor in, though Reimold should be in the lineup as much as possible as well, either in left field or as the designated hitter.

The Orioles are expecting Machado to eventually be a better hitter than Reimold, but I'm just not sure that will happen this season. Reimold has already demonstrated the ability to get on base more often and hit for a bit more power, and he's probably the team's fastest runner (at least down the first base line). But he just hasn't been able to stay on the field, so I wonder how much Showalter actually trusts him. The Orioles have also been steadfast in challenging their young stars whether in the minors or majors the last couple years, so maybe this is just another case of seeing what a young and promising player can handle.

It's important to note that while lineup concerns can be fun to complain about, they aren't THAT significant. Per Baseball Musings' lineup tool, the O's opening day lineup is projected to score 4.795 runs per game. The best two lineups offered for these nine players (Markakis-Reimold-Wieters-Davis-Jones-Machado-Hardy-Pearce-Roberts and Markakis-Jones-Wieters-Davis-Reimold-Machado-Hardy-Pearce-Roberts) are projected to score 4.865 runs per game. So, yeah, not a big difference -- maybe worth one win over a full season, but that's assuming Showalter sticks to the same lineup and never adjusts, which won't happen.

And before getting too upset, let's also note that 1) it's the first game of the season, and 2) Showalter will deploy a different lineup against right-handed pitchers. Nate McLouth will most likely be in the lineup for most of those match-ups, as will Wilson Betemit when he comes off the disabled list. (I'm intrigued to see where McLouth bats in the lineup.) It'll probably take Showalter some time to find the lineups he likes the most, and I'd still be surprised to see Machado batting second every day. Then again, I didn't think Machado would handle his initial debut as well as he did, and it's possible that he starts the season out well and is comfortable batting behind Markakis for the entire season. Maybe Machado has a fantastic second season and keeps hitting for power while improving his getting-on-base skills.

That's the fun part, after all. We don't know what's going to happen.


Bret said...

One thing I'm looking forward to this year (hopefully) is a full season out of Markakis, Reimold and Machado because they get on base without excessive strikeouts. Hopefully Roberts has something left and will at least cut down on the Ks as compared to Andino. The O's had 85 fewer offensive walks than the Yankees last year and 139 more K's. They need to close that gap if not eliminate it altogether because I know they are going to hit many more homers than NY. The Reynolds, Betemits and Andinos and the elimination of their 24-30% K rates are the most welcome thing of the season for me. And I'll give Davis a pass if he hits 33 HR again. You can have 1 or 2 of those guys, you can't have 5 or 6. Jones and Davis are more than enough going forward, we need to start targeting the Jackie Bradley jrs of the world.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I'm also excited for those guys, and hopefully they can stay healthy. An entire season, or most of one, with Markakis, Reimold, and Machado should greatly improve the lineup's production.

Matt P said...

Look at the minor league numbers for Machado. He's much better against lefties then righties. Same goes for Schoop.

I was thinking it would be smart to put him in the #2 spot against lefties but didn't actually see it happening.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Pearce's numbers against lefties are much better than some of the guys ahead of him in the lineup too, but he still batted eighth. I have no problem with the platoon lineups and think they're beneficial, but I'm just not sure that's the sole rationale for where every guy bats in every spot. I'm sure Showalter is factoring in multiple things.

Bret said...

The O's had 3 players see 18 pitches or more yesterday. One was Reimold, one was Machado and one was Wieters. It stands to reason that you want higher on base players higher up. Machado may not be Albert Pujols this year but what he is going to do is work pitchers and take walks and generally put the ball in play.

I wouldn't mind seeing something like Markakis/Reimold/Machado/Wieters to start each game in some order 1-3. Adam Jones and Davis have roles to play but the roles aren't working pitchers or getting on base. No reason they can't hit 5th or 6th, McLouth 7th, Hardy 8th Roberts 9th.

Matt P said...

Sure. It makes sense to get Machado used to batting up higher in the order because that's where you hope he'll be in two or three years. As long as he doesn't hurt you against lefties then you may as well give him that experience.

Or maybe we'll see him at the same spot against Hellickson and I'll be proven wrong.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Yeah, I mean, really it's not that big of a deal. Machado has a lot of talent, and it's certainly possible that he can hold down the second spot. Reimold should probably bat second, or at least higher up, but that's nothing O's fans haven't discussed before. The lineup did look great yesterday; hopefully it continues.