Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Nein, Nein, Oh Nein

MLB.com decided to celebrate Beatles: Rock Band Day by dressing (their website) to the nines--and posting an article about the most thrilling and scintillating part of baseball: filling out the lineup card.

Yawn!

Rather than regale us with statistical models determining whether pencil-filled or pen-filled cards have a higher winning percentage, or whether poor penmanship could give you lineup flexibility (I always wondered if the Braves' Bobby Cox was allowed to wait until the last second to decide which Jones, Andruw or Larry, would occupy the earlier Jones-designated lineup slot), mlb.com decided to ask managers like the Dodgers' Joe Torre, the Cardinals' Tony La Russa, and the aforementioned Cox how they fill out their lineup cards. Which got us pearls of wisdom like this:

MLB.com: If there is an art to filling out a lineup card, what is an important lesson you can pass along to others?

La Russa: I think the thing you do more than anything else is you have to look at your personnel. Fit your lineup to your personnel, not to some formula.

Let me get this straight: when filling out a lineup card, I've got to make sure I know the players on my team. I suppose this prevents me from the embarrassing mistake of filling in retired players on the card (though to be fair, didn't stop Ned Colletti from signing Mark Sweeney a couple of years back--but I digress).

Cox: I think what you have on your roster dictates the lineup. Back when I started managing, you didn't put much thought about the other club's relievers when you were making your lineup. Now the game has become much more specialized and when you put the lineup together you're thinking about more than just the other team's starting pitcher.

Rule #2: think about more than the other team's starting pitcher. Check. I guess this means I've got to do more than read the "probable pitchers" page, then.

Torre: With certain people, it's easy. You know where the leadoff guy goes. I used to have trouble and Don Zimmer gave me a great hint -- start from the bottom. He was right. All of a sudden I realized when you put the names down that way, it makes the rest of it easier. With our current lineup, you know where (Matt) Kemp, (Andre) Ethier, Manny (Ramirez) and (Rafael) Furcal will be. Those guys will be in the top four or five spots. It becomes pretty simple, and occasionally it's a matter of how to attack a certain pitcher with right-handed hitters or left-handed hitters. But when you have players who play every day regardless, it's not that tough a call.

Aha, finally a nugget! This explains why Rafael Furcal, who is admittedly starting to show some spark in recent games, has sat above the lineup despite a horrific OBP. And if we start from the bottom, it also explains why Orlando Hudson gets the eight-hole so often (as did Matt Kemp through the first half of the year). Good stuff.

2 comments:

Dusty Baker said...

Did Bobby Cox get thrown out of that interview?

KempKershaw said...

Here's a novel idea - build a lineup that gives you the best chance to score the most runs, regardless of who's pitching or who's in the other team's bullpen. High-OBP guys at the top of the order, string your best hitters together to maximize your offensive output.

And I can't believe the words "top 4 or 5" and "Matt Kemp" came out of Torre's mouth in the same sentence. Happy it did, but shocked nevertheless.