It’s February, so along with the start of Spring Training it must be time for the UCB roundtable. You know the drill – one member blog asks a question each day, and the rest of the organization offers their answer.
All links for all questions can be found on the official United Cardinal Blogger website. For your convenience, I’ve posted links to the first four questions here:
- CardinalsGM: Do you trust the bullpen?
- I-70 Baseball: Predict end of season stats for Pujols, Wainwright, Berkman, and Freese
- RetroSimba: Is Rasmus a CF who can lead the Cards to a World Championship?
- Aaron Miles’ Fastball: What is your expectation for Kyle Lohse in 2011?
Which sends me to the batter’s box. My question:
Let’s project the batting order. Our one constant is Pujols hitting third. Of the remaining expected starters (Theriot, Schumaker, Rasmus, Molina, Holliday, Freese, Berkman) who would you hit where and why? Would you insert Rasmus or Berkman between Holliday and Pujols? Would you hit Rasmus high in the order? Does Theriot lead off, do you give Schumaker another shot at the top spot, or stick someone else up there? What is the best fit for Freese? And most importantly do we put the pitcher back in the 8-slot?
I got back
12 13 responses and 13 14 lineups, which is way WAY above the average for my UCB question. Methodologies ranged from using The Book, to drawing names out of a hat (which, frankly is what Tony LaRussa seems to do at times). Interestingly there was no consensus on any position in the lineup – not even the #3 hitter. There was even a Nick Punto sighting.
Read the insightful answers after the jump!
Dennis Lawson, Pitchers Hit Eighth (Twitter: @gr33nazn)
I’m jumping on this on in a hurry, because I basically wrote my answer to this one in a blog piece published in mid-January. Yes, I’m totally summarizing from that piece, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty.1. Ryan Theriot – .321 OBP and 20 stolen bases in 20102. David Freese – .357 avg vs LHP in 20103. Albert Pujols4. Matt Holliday5. Colby Rasmus – .290/.377/.539/.916 with 13/23 hr and 43/66 rbi when hitting 5th in 20106. Yadier Molina – .316/.381/.400/.781 when hitting 6th in 20107. Lance Berkman – In 2010, he hit for a higher avg when hitting lower in the lineup (.283 batting 6th, .265 batting 7th)8. The pitcher, who else?9. Skip Schumaker – hit .281 when leading off an inning in 2010I looked at batting Rasmus 2nd, but he was only good for .257/.295/.405/.700 when hitting in that slot, so I’m not convinced that’s the best place for him. Besides, I’d like to see him get more RBI opportunities. On days that Jay plays RF in place of Berkman, I’d probably want to see him bat 2nd due to his fairly even LHP/RHP split.
Mike, I suspect the Cardinals will bat Lance Berkman fifth and Colby Rasmus second, but I’m making the case they would do better reversing those spots. My suggested batting order:
Ryan Theriot: He has a career .290 batting average .338 on-base percentage from the lead-off spot. Lance Berkman: He has a career .314 batting average and .368 on-base percentage from the No. 2 spot. Albert Pujols: He has 341 home runs and 975 RBI as a No. 3 batter. Matt Holliday: He has a .318 batting average, .394 on-base percentage and .540 slugging percentage from the clean-up spot. Colby Rasmus: He has hit better from the No. 5 spot than from any other: .296 batting average, .375 on-base pct, .546 slugging pct. David Freese: .310 batting average, .380 on-base pct and .423 slugging pct from this spot. Yadier Molina: More homers (19) and RBI (132) from No. 7 spot than any other. Skip Schumaker: He hasn’t hit well here (.224), so I can see him trading spots with Theriot vs. right-handed pitching. Pitcher
Dan Shoptaw, C70 at the Bat (Twitter: @C70)
Honestly, Mark’s lineup looks like the lineup I’d run out there. I like the potential of Berkman’s OBP and power in front of Albert, but I do expect they’ll put Rasmus in that position. As long as Theriot and Schumaker don’t go 1-2, the Cards should be OK. If they do, that’s a lot of 2-out, nobody on innings for AP.
Erika Lynn, Cardinal Diamond Diaries (Twitter: @Erika4stlcards)
Honestly, just the mention of a lineup makes me so very happy because baseball is just around the corner! This has been a long and difficult off-season, and with all the new faces I am looking forward to seeing the new guys in action to get a better feel for how they will fit into the club. Taking the hint from you brilliant UCB folk, it looks like Ryan Theriot is a good bet to lead off. From there, Berkman’s reported OBP would be a great fit in front of Albert. I’d love to get Freese hitting after Holliday. Not just for the visual appeal, but because from my distant memories of Freese at the plate, he was racking up the rbi’s as he moved up the batting order. I don’t have as much faith in Colby’s plate discipline, so I stuck him 6th. The pitcher’s gotta hit eighth because it’s quirky and so Tony-esque. And Skip as a second lead-off guy in 9th could be interesting. It’ll be fun to see what lineups TLR will experiment with this season. Let’s play ball already! ;)1. Ryan Theriot2. Lance Berkman3. Albert Pujols4. Matt “Hunky” Holliday5. David Freese6. Colby Rasmus7. Yadier Molina8. the pitcher9. Skip Schumaker
What I think will be the most consistent lineup:1. Theriot2. Rasmus3. Pujols4. Holliday5. Berkman6. Freese7. Molina8. SchumakerWhat I’d like to see:1. Theriot2. Freese3. Pujols4. Berkman5. Holliday6. Rasmus7. Molina8. Schumaker
Luckily, Erik Manning did much of the heavy lifting for me on this one. Recently, he posted at Gas House Graphs about this very topic using the guidelines established by The Book (Tango, Lichtman, and Dolphin). In short, all of the hand-wringing over lineup construction is rather negligible as research shows that teams only benefit by one win over the course of an entire season if they were to utilize an optimal lineup over a conventional one.Anyways, this is going to look kind of silly, but there are some sound principles to back it up. Here is what the Cardinals’ optimal lineups would look like versus pitcher handedness:
Batting the pitcher eighth actually does benefit a team by a couple of runs per season. It’s better to have Pujols bat cleanup (as opposed to third) because it allows him to enter the batter’s box less often with two outs and bases empty; on average, he would have more opportunity to drive in runs than the number three hitter. If this stuff interests you, I recommend reading Erik’s post (Optimizing the Cardinal Lineup By the Book) at GHG for a more detailed explanation.
Christine Coleman, Cardinal Diamond Diaries (Twitter: @CColeman802)
Because my brain is a little fried from all the work at my full-time job these days plus baseball writing, and because Albert batting third, Holliday batting fourth and the pitcher hitting eighth (of course!) are to me givens, I’ll take a different approach to the rest of the batting order. It’s the one my softball coach used when I was 12 and we went 0-25 for the season – just drawing names out of a hat. So here’s the rest of my proposed batting order, drawn from my 2006 World Series Champions ball cap. Comments below on the more unusual draws.
Berkman – I actually cheated a little bit after I drew his name first, threw it back it, tried again. And drew his name once more. It’s fate. So then I looked up his stats, and he surprisingly actually has hit lead-off before. In three games (one start). Eight plate appearances, an OBP of .375. But a slugging percentage of 1.143, thanks to two homers, plus four RBI. We’ll just ignore those three Ks in three games.
Schumaker – Skip’s actually hit fifth more than Berkman has hit lead-off (17 games, 32 plate appearances), so that’s a plus. And about the only one, looking at his numbers. Although he does have an RBI.
Theriot – Yes, he also has hit sixth before. Not many times, and nothing but a walk to show for it. Ouch.
Freese – He too has done this before, in 11 games. And about the best that can be said is that he has two RBI.
So, maybe the luck of the draw won’t amount to anything. (It obviously didn’t help my softball team.) But, given La Russa’s penchant for mixing it up, would you be at all shocked if a lineup similar to this actually takes the field some day?
Dustin McClure, Welcome to Baseball Heaven (Twitter: @DJ_McClure)
This is the batting order I believe we’ll see on opening day and I’m good with it.1. Theriot2. Rasmus3. Pujols4. Holliday5. Berkman6. Freese7. Molina8. Pitcher9. SchumakerI do like the idea of having Rasmus move around a little between 2 and 5 along with hitting some from the leadoff spot against right-handed pitching. I also continue to be a fan of having the pitcher hit eighth. To be honest as long as the names Miles, Winn and Feliz do not show up on any of TLR’s lineup cards he can run whatever combination he wants out there.
Ah, lineups. You gotta love these discussions. If it wasn’t for questions like this, would bloggers exist?
My prefered lineup is similar to what others have expressed: Theriot/Rasmus/Pujols/Holliday/Berkman/Freese/Yadi/Pitcher/Skippy…
That being said, I wouldn’t mind seeing that juggled from time to time. Colby hitting fifth or even sixth with Berkman second and Freese fifth would work. The good thing about this discussion, and the one that may render it useless, is Tony LaRussa. That lineup will change 30-50 times this year, so buckle down and enjoy the ride.
Honestly I’m not sure if I believe David Freese will be ready for Opening Day. If he isn’t, I think we can expect to see Nick Punto starting at third base and batting 8th. But assuming Freese’s (and everyone else’s) health, Here’s the lineup I believe we’ll see most often:
Yes! The dreaded pitcher batting eighth returns! Honestly, I think this will come from Tony LaRussa not knowing what to do with both Schumaker and Theriot in the lineup every day. Perhaps they’ll alternate batting ninth and first, who knows. I’m sure the opposing starting pitcher will influence that decision as well. When a lefty faces the Cards, expect Punto to get the start at second base. But I expect the 2-7 spots in the order to stay relatively static thoughout the season. I like the possibility of Berkman hitting second, but I can see LaRussa thinking Rasmus will get better pitches to hit in front of Pujols, and Berkman’s experience would be an asset in a RBI position like fifth.
Don’t go thinking LaRussa will suddenly decide to go with the same order every single day, though. We all know better than that.
I’d expect Theriot and Schumaker may rotate depending on the handedness of the opposing pitcher. And yes, you’re reading that bottom of order correctly. I think Tony’s going to fail our site again.
Steve Judd, The Outfield Ivy (Twitter @theoutfieldivy)
- SchumakerI would like to see Freese get off to a hot start and batting either in the 6 spot or in between Holliday and Berkman. The lead-off spot may be up for grabs between Theriot and Schumaker, but I think Theriot was brought in just for that specific reason. I love the pitcher in the 8-spot.