Friday, August 3, 2007

How to Achieve 1,000 Runs and Actually Be Good At Baseball, Too

Fill this out, fuckers:

I always love how people think they can play GM and put together a great lineup like *that* by assembling a bunch of guys with high RBI, run, and SB totals, or by talking about how "toolsy" someone is. I also love how others sit there, masturbating to the word "boobies" spelled in upside down numbers on their calculators. They'll tell you how OBP and all these VORP WARP QWORP and HEROINORP stats dictate how to assemble the best lineup ever...even if it's only on paper. It's as if these clowns think that Baseball is really just a text-based simulation of Baseball, and not an actual game played on an actual field by actual people with actual bats and gloves, instead of pencils, a sharpener, and the obligatory t value charts.

Well, wannabe scouts, fuck you, you're wrong.

Sabermetricians, fuck you, you're wrong too.

And there's no middle ground, so stop being a fucking pussy and pick a side.

Well here's my side. The third side. The third dimension in the two dimensional plane of reality in which most GMs and fans operate. I like to call this third dimension LINEUP BALANCE. This means, not just assembling a lineup full of good fantasy baseball guys with good stats in 5 categories. This means, not just looking at on base percentage and thinking you can build around this. And even for advanced statgeeks, this means moving beyond runs created, VORP, WARP, etc. So today, I will take you through building a lineup, and give you the best lineup in baseball.

That said, there are several BASIC principles that every GM and GM wannabe should abide by when deciding what their team needs. I tried to keep things basic so simple scouts and smarty sabermetricians can both understand. The "look fors" I will give you, are very basic guidelines, and the suggested stats I give are "potential" stats, not necessarily prior year stats. It is up to YOU how much of a given attribute you want, within the given range. Don't worry. If you fuck up, it's only your team's season. Oh, wait, you're not an actual GM. So go get your copies of Baseball Mogul, and let's get started with the principles:

The most important principle. Some pitchers are prone to longballs. Others are groundball machines. Others are control artists that require utmost patience. Others are so tough to hit that you HAVE to manufacture runs to beat them. Still others need to be battled until they become fatigued. And for all of these types, they come right handed, left handed, throw from different angles, and have all kind of different offspeed pitches that move uniquely. Therefore, you have to give yourself an edge any way possible. You need to be able to do it all. Obviously, there aren't many hitters that CAN do it all, so you'll need to fill different parts of your lineup with different types of players and group like types together to achieve a maximum impact.

You will want a top of the order that can get on base while hitting for a decent average, and you don't want too much power here. Too much pop will kill you, as your sluggers won't be batting with men on base. You want hitters that spoil a lot of pitches, have no real holes in their swing, and don't swing and miss very often. Additionally, you want speed, but not reckless speed. You want 30 steal speed in both the 1 and 2 holes, although 20 steal speed is acceptable in the 2 spot, and you want smart baserunners. You want good walk totals from you leadoff hitter, and you'd prefer them in your 2 hitter as well, but your 2 hitter should have a high contact% against pitches out of the strike zone, as well as in general. Both players should be bunt-capable.
#1 hitter .280 - .300, 80+ walks, less than 90 strikeouts, 30 SB, between 5 and 15 homers
#2 hitter .300 +, 60+ walks, 20 SB, between 10 and 25 homers, swings and misses less than 10% of the time

You will want your #3 hitter to be your most consistent, but not necessarily your best hitter. You want a high average from this spot, and someone that does not hit into many double plays (this is actually very important). You want 15 steal speed, line drives, down on the ball, and again, a low strikeout total and low swing and miss total. You will be counting on this guy to produce in the 1st and 3rd, less than 2 out situation. Furthermore, you want a home run threat, but not someone who is going to hit more than 25 home runs as this detracts from the value of your 4 through 7 hitters.
#3 hitter .290 +, between 15 and 25 home runs, between 70 and 85 walks, less than 95 strikeouts, swings and misses less than 15% of the time

Self explanatory. Middle of the order, you will hammer crap pitching with these bats. You want a high OBP from your 4-5 hitters, you can accept lower from your 6-7, but you want RBI guys. Your true sluggers - your homer only threats - you want batting 6th or 7th. Your 4th hitter should be your best run producer, and your fifth hitter should be your second best. The 4 hitter should be able to hit any pitch out of the ballpark, and the 5 hitter should be not far behind. In other words, no one in your lineup should have a hole in their swing until the 6 hitter. The 7th hitter doesn't need anywhere as much power as the other 3 (15-20 HR will do here), but should still be a run producer.
#4 hitter: .300+, minimum 30 home runs, minimum 80 walks, no more than 10 steals
#5 hitter: .280+, minimum 30 home runs, minimum 70 walks, no more than 10 steals
#6 hitter: .270+, minimum 25 home runs, minimum 70 walks, no more than 15 steals
#7 hitter: .270+, minimum 15 home runs, minimum 65 walks, between 5 and 20 steals

These guys, it's OK if they're not speed demons. You want good contact hitters, high average not required, who are capable of situational smallball, but usually won't be asked to do so without a situation presenting itself, and usually won't do it on their own. Additionally, you want more power than you would get from your top of the order - these last two guys are your mistake hitters. And again, you want tough at bats, increasing the likelihood that you get a mistake to hit. These are the guys who typically pound one type of pitch, but are mediocre against the rest. They are specialty hitters who can counter an opposing pitcher's strength with one of their own, and they always have the potential to just randomly have a great year. At least one of these guys, preferably both, should be bunt-capable.

These positions are highly subjective. Find guys who do ONE thing well, and put them in there. These guys should all be expected to bat at least .260, and be able to draw 50 walks over the course of a season. 10-20 home runs is desirable as well. Shy away from .220 hitters with high HR totals, as well as .290 hitters with no power. You want these guys to be mistake hitters, but when they get a mistake, you want them to cash it in. Also, believe it or not, you don't want any of these guys to steal more than 20 bases. In fact, in these spots, stolen bases don't really mean a thing. Additionally, avoid anyone likely to hit more than 20 homers. The likely drop in contact (as well as the lost value of having men on base - helping you to multi-run innings), coupled with the fact that many HRs will go "wasted" at the bottom of the order, more than negates the value of the additional home runs.

Self explanatory. The more pitches you see, the more likely the pitcher is to make a mistake. This principle covers every hitter in every lineup.

For every force, there is an equal and opposite force. A balanced lineup, therefore, is balanced. There are four scales you want to balance: speed, power, contact, and walks. You don't want too much of any one thing, or even too much of all of these. Take speed and power. What good is speed if you have home run threats at the plate and can't run? What good is power if your sluggers are being distracted by stealing baserunners, or, worse yet, the speedy guy gets thrown out and now your slugger's home run is worth one less run? Take contact and walks. What good is great contact if you never swing because you are working counts? And what good is great walks if guys don't move runners around the bases by swinging the bat?

A good lineup has an ample amount of all four of these attributes, in both consistent AND inconsistent hitters, ensuring that the lineup will rarely, if ever, go cold. A lineup such as this will beat flamethrowers, junkballers, no-control Nuke LaLooshes, lefties, righties, knuckleballers, sinkerballers, sidearmers, submariners, etc. A truly balanced lineup has no weaknesses, because somebody in that lineup can beat the guy on the mound, even if the majority of his teammates can't. That's why these guys are grouped together: to heighten the effect, or compensate for the fact someone might be in a slump, while not missing a beat.

Therefore, be creative. Balance the 4 factors. Want more power? Take it away somewhere else. Want less power? Add it somewhere else. Just make sure your lineup, overall, has the ability to do it all. You don't want any powerless guys, you don't want more than 2 "i can't steal a base no matter what" guys, and you don't want ANY free swingers. And you don't want any swing-and-miss types in the top third of your order. Everything else is negotiable.

The keys are really simple: 1) Lots of doubles. 2) High stolen base%, fewer than 120 team SB. 3) Make your homers count. Avoid solo shots. 4) Play smallball when you're not scoring. 5) Avoid double plays.

Those 5 things combined = 1,000 runs.

***So here's the best lineup ever
This lineup will score more runs than every All Star Team ever assembled. And, holy shit, I was actually able to pick guys who have good defense while concocting this. And while this may be, at times, an All-Star Team, it's not the names you might ordinarily pick if you were asked to pick the best player at every position in baseball and put them into a lineup. I'm biased towards Yankees, but this is what you'd look for in a lineup that will be good for years to come (IE i focused on young players):

2B Brian Roberts
SS Derek Jeter
C Joe Mauer
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Ryan Howard
LF Raul Ibanez
DH Jonny Gomes
CF Melky Cabrera
RF Mark Kotsay

This lineup will score runs against all kinds of pitchers, in all kinds of situations. 1,000 runs, in the bank, guaranteed.

And just think. That's only hitting. You've still got to put together a pitching staff, a bench, and have good team defense. And you think YOU can be a GM?


Douggy Bombs said...

And just for fun...a largely mediocre, but balanced lineup that will overachieve, and still produce 900+ runs:

SS Rafael Furcal
CF Gary Matthews Jr.
RF Nick Markakis
1B Albert Pujols
3B Troy Glaus
DH Nick Swisher
LF Garrett Anderson
C Ben Molina
2B Chris Burke

B.A. Baracus said...

Good points and a very well-put-together lineup there. However, I would like to point out that if you go by each hitter's usual offensive output each year, the team's OBA would be around .370 and have between 650 and 700 walks, which would, if not lead the league in both categories, be very very close. Sabermetricians would love this lineup because they get on base, draw walks, have good power, and as you said, play smallball when you're not hitting, because it's worth trading outs for a run in those situations. So, I wouldn't throw sabermetricians into the same category as the "I love 5-tool players!" morons.

Douggy Bombs said...

SOME, my friend. i'm referring to the douche bags who think that bobby abreu or jason giambi would be good choices for leadoff due to their high OBP's.

B.A. Baracus said...

Oh yeah, people who think that are stupid not to look beyond OBA in cases like Abreu and Giambi. Their getting on base is extremely valuable, but putting a guy like Giambi with 35-40 HR power in the leadoff spot is a total waste since a lot more of those homers would come with nobody on than they would if he was batting 4th or 5th.

Jack Bauer said...

nice lineup

me likey