Brian Roberts Batting Third

Dave Trembley had an interesting line-up tonight. I don’t know if he’s trying to shake things up, or he’s acting out of desperation to keep his job, or he has a well thought-out reason for it (I’d guess “no” on that last count), but Brian Roberts was penciled in the three-hole.

The line-up was thus (including slash stats this year plus wOBA):

Felix Pie: .276/.336/.469, .340
Nolan Reimold: .277/.371/.461, .367
Brian Roberts: .284/.348/.460, .355
Nick Markakis: .305/.355/.476, .359
Luke Scott: .261/.348/.489, .358
Matt Wieters: .263/.309/.371, .298
Melvin Mora: .259 /.320/.348, .296
Michael Aubrey: .353/.389/.471, .376
Cesar Izturis: .257/.287/.339, .280

Let’s refer to The Book (if you haven’t read it, you should):

“Your three best hitter should bat somewhere in the #1, #2, and #4 slots. You fourth- and fifth-best hitters should occupy the #3 and #5 slots. The #1 and #2 slots will have players with more walks than those in the #4 and #5 slots. From slot #6 through #9, put the players in descending order of quality.”

So first off we need to figure out who the three best hitters are. This season by wOBA, Nolan Reimold, Nick Markakis, Luke Scott, and Brian Roberts have been pretty much interchangeable. Their in-season ZiPS projected wOBAs going forward are .348, .373, .362, and .358 respectively.  So that knocks out Reimold, which means Markakis, Roberts, and Scott should go in the #1, #2, and #4 slots. The lead-off spot leverages walks the most and home runs the least, so Brian Roberts (who walks more than Markakis but less than Scott, but has much less home run power than Scott) so he would go there (pretty obvious, right?). Comparing the #2 and #4 spots, the former has an advantage from walks while the latter has the advantage from extra-base hits.  Interestingly, my previous freak-outs on Twitter seems incorrect.  Nick Markakis – despite his supposed “good batting eye” and great 2008 season with regards to walks – actually takes the free pass less frequently than Scott and is projected to continue doing so. And Luke Scott – despite leading the team in home runs and probably having the most raw power on the team (Wieters?) – actually gets extra-base hits in general at about the same rate as Markakis (41 in 417 PA for Luke, 59 in 598 PA for Nick). That would seem to indicate that Scott’s extra walks would be best leveraged in the two-hole with Markakis batting clean-up.  On the other hand, Nick is the better overall hitter so him getting more plate appearances (by batting higher) would also be good. On the other, other hand, if you include strike-outs then Scott in the two-hole makes even more sense (though it’s pretty small in significance):

“That’s right, the #2 hitter’s preferred outs are strikeouts! And the preferred outs for cleanup hitters are “moving runners over” outs. See, the #2 hitter has too many runners on first, and that makes the double play a bit too dangerous. If he has to make and out, make it a strikeout.  The cleanup hitter has more runners in scoring position, and so if has to make and out, we don’t want him to strike out.”

On the other hand (third hand? or is it the fourth?), Brian Roberts basestealing is best leveraged “in front of a batter who hits lots of singles and doesn’t strikeout much.” That would leans things back to Markakis. Maybe call the whole thing a push?  In any case, it was incorrect to be so up in arms about Nick batting cleanup. I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong, and it looks like that was the case with that.

The next two best hitters bat 3rd and 5th, and that would be Nolan Reimold and Felix Pie (normally Adam Jones).  “The outs for the hitter in the #5 slot are more costly than those in the #3 slot… the hitter in the #5 slot should be better.” The #3 hitter actually leverages home runs better, since he comes up with two outs more often. The problem is, Reimold both homers more often than Pie (or Jones) and walks more often… and just generally hits better. So Reimold would bat 5th, and Pie (or Jones) would bat 3rd. [Realistically, having Pie in the three-spot is less good since that would put three lefties in a row.  Jones there would make more sense.]

After that, we’d just go in descending order by quality. Guess you could say that would be Wieters, Mora, Aubrey, Izturis, which is how Trembley had it.

That would make the line-up:

Brian Roberts
Nick Markakis or Luke Scott
Felix Pie (preferably Adam Jones)
Luke Scott or Nick Markakis
Nolan Reimold
Matt Wieters
Melvin Mora
Michael Aubrey
Cesar Izturis

In any case, batting Roberts 3rd doesn’t make much sense at all.  It would indicate that (1) he’s only the team’s fourth of fifth best hitter and (2) he’s a player whose home runs you’d want to leverage as opposed to all his other offensive skills. Clearly those things aren’t true (well, if you think Reimold > Roberts right now then he would only be the team’s fourth best hitter). So, yeah. Let Roberts bat lead-off.