Monday, May 5, 2008

Alphabetically According to Height

As Carlos Beltran continues to struggle, it strikes me that the Mets' batting order needs to be shuffled. Am I the only one who thinks it should look like this:

1. Jose Reyes, SS.
2. Carlos Beltran, CF.
3. Ryan Church, RF.
4. David Wright, 3B.
5. Carlos Delgado, 1B.
6. Moises Alou, LF.
7. Luis Castillo, 2b.
8. Brian Schneider, C.
9. Pitcher.

Reyes is an obvious leadoff hitter, and there is no one else on the club who you would even consider in that spot; similarly, the pitcher is always going to hit ninth, no analysis needed there.

From 2-8, though, I think Willie has it exactly wrong in every respect. Start with the number 2 hitter. I know there has been a lot of debate about whether it should be Church or Castillo, but in my view Beltran has always been the ideal second hitter. He was a #2 hitter with Kansas City more than occasionally, and it was only when the Mets gave him a huge contract that they felt compelled to keep him out of the two spot and only in the 3-4-5 spots (the money spots). I know he is capable of hitting a ton of home runs, but I will take those anywhere in the lineup (and, by the way, he hasn't hit JACK SQUAT (said in Matt Foley style) this year). Also, for his career, Beltran hits 1 HR per 18.3 AB in the two spot, 1 HR per 20.9 AB in the three spot, and 1 hr per 23.2 AB in the cleanup slot. His career average across the 2-3-4 roles? .292, .274, and .289, respectively. He walks a ton, but he strikes out too much and he has been struggling. Putting him up second, with Reyes occasionally on base in front of him gives him RBI chances, and forces people to throw him strikes. Put your big power hitters behind him, and you only increase the number of quality pitches he is going to see. If Beltran gets going this team is scary (consider that they are 1/2 game out of first place and Beltran has been awful so far this year).

Batting third, putting Church up here is again a no brainer to me. I admit that he strikes out too much, and will also admit that he is a .342 career hitter in the two spot (he is also a .500 hitter in the three spot, but that's not a fair stat, because he has only batted third twice in his career), but he will continue to see a ton of quality pitches ahead of Wright (which may explain why he has hit so well in the two slot this year), and I like the lefty up to bat with a man on first, because the hole is wide open on the right side every time he comes up (first baseman holding the runner, second baseman cheating towards the bag for a double play). Will he ground into a fair amount of double plays and strikeout a lot batting third? Yes. But this is countered, in my view, by the number of singles to the right side that will score a run, or at least move a speedy Reyes or Beltran from first to third.

If you buy my first three arguments, batting Wright cleanup is a given. You want to alternate between lefties and righties so that the opposing bullpen is challenged in the late innings, and Wright is our big RBI guy. Putting him up fourth with runners in base and two potential deep threats behind him would be terrifying to an opposing pitcher. Also, Wright has been pretty consistent for his career across the number three, four and five slots. He bats about .325, with about 1 HR every 20 AB and about 1 RBI every 5.2 AB. Only meaningful differences appear to be a slight increase in power when in the #4 slot (1 hr every 19 AB as compared to 1 every 23 AB) and a drop in average when you hit him fifth (about 30 points). His numbers as a cleanup hitter are pretty remarkable. .333/17/60 in 321 career AB's. He is going to lose some stolen bases batting cleanup, but I can live with that.

Batting fifth, Delgado. Lefty following the righty is reason enough, but protect him with Alou behind him and he is going to see better pitches. I'll give less credence to the career splits here, because he is far from his prime, but I will admit that he is slightly less productive in the five spot than in the four or six spot. If for no other reason, given how much sense it makes to put everyone else in the 2, 3, 4 and 6 positions, Delgado bats fifth by default.

Batting sixth, the secret weapon. I have been as critical of Alou as anyone, but that's because he cannot stay healthy. When he is healthy, he is a terrifying hitter, and doesn't need someone behind him to improve the pitch selection he gets. Righty after the lefty who followed the righty that followed the lefty, Alou picks up the pieces. Note, Alou's career numbers batting sixth (.324, 1 hr every 15.5 AB's and 1 RBI every 4.8 AB's) are better than when he bats third, fourth or fifth. He is also slower than Stephen Hawking driving a Yugo, so it makes sense to keep him towards the bottom of the order.

Seventh/Eighth. I could argue the Schneider/Castillo thing either way here, but keep in mind that you are rarely going to take Schneider out of the game, so it makes sense to keep him in the eighth hole, rather than in the seventh hole where you might want to go with a pinch hitter with some pop (Marlon, Damion). I admit that is sort of a stretch, but it's something to consider. Also, Castillo is much less likely to get the extra base hit to clear the runners on base (so the edge goes to Schneider to bat seventh) and Castillo is much less likely to strikeout (so the edge goes to Castillo to bat eighth). Bottom line is that like most teams, we need to get our run production out of the 1-6 hitters. The batting order proposed above is the most likely way to make that happen.

Do the math Willie.


Open Bar said...

Dude, I normally love your Mets criticism. And there's a lot I love about this post.

But come on, are you seriously suggesting that Ryan Church bat before David Wright?

And are you really using a stat like batting average no less than 5 times to prove your points?

I would hate to think that the writers of this blog, who've all played baseball, would think that batting average is the best (or even a very good) way to judge how good a hitter is.

Side Bar said...

you're right, the frequency with which a hitter gets a hit is an arcane, pointless stat.

Chill out sabremetrics. Church ahead of Wright is a stretch, but if you haven't noticed, the Mets' offense is anemic. They need to shake things up. Willie's whole thing about "I trust my guys," and "we just have to battle," is going to sound pretty fucking lame in August when we are 8 1/2 games behind the Phillies.

Open Bar said...

David Wright is a way better hitter than Ryan Church, so batting him first makes sense.

I think Wright-Church-Alou-Delgado would be better than Church-Wright-Delgado-Alou, although in the long run it probably wouldn't be too different.
sorry, that comment before was rather sabermetrically arrogant, but I do stand by the point.

The frequency with which a hitter gets a hit is rather arcane and pointless if it gives the hitter zero credit for drawing a walk, while awarding him the exact same amount of credit for a bunt single and a 500-foot home run.