On Batting Robert Andino Lead-off

With Brian Roberts out of the line-up after getting a root canal, Buck Showalter inserted Robert Andino into the lead-off spot and put Cesar Izturis at second-base. These things don’t makes much sense to me; let’s take them in reverse order:

1) Andino is a decent shortstop, coming in a bit above average for his career according to the defensive metrics (+2.7 UZR/150, for example). Izturis is a good shortstop (career +7.4 UZR/150), who is only in the majors because of his glove. So why would you play your better defender at the easier position (second)? Especially given that he has much less recent experience there? I guess Buck didn’t want to disrupt Andino, who has been playing a lot of short with Hardy out, maybe? Still, on a pure runs saved bases this is likely suboptimal (if insignificantly so).

2) Robert Andino is surely hitting well this year (.314/.397/.392), but that’s only 59 PA and it doesn’t change our expectations for his current and future performance all that much (ZiPS projected a .287 wOBA coming into the season, and that’s up to .297 now).  Beyond 59 PA being a tiny sample size, Andino has benefited from a .385 batting average on balls in play (.292 career). He just isn’t this good folks, even if he’s a little better than we thought before. Using the same argument to support Andino batting lead-off (he’s hit so well in 2011!), one would easily argue that Nick Markakis (.217/.288/.302) shouldn’t be batting second. But that would be silly, since we can look at Nick’s entire career to give us an idea that he’s actually a much better hitter than he has been so far this year (that is, his current true talent level is higher than his production). Similarly, Andino is a worse hitter than he has been. You can’t give Andino 100% credit for his 2011 but ignore Nick’s 2011.

Once we’ve established that, that leaves Andino as still the second worst* batter in the line-up (after Izturis), and yet he’s batting first. Why would you bat your second worst hitter first? Beyond the “hot hand” thing, I guess Buck didn’t want to move around anyone in the rest of the order, maybe? Still, on a pure runs scored basis this is likely suboptimal (if insignificantly so).

* Andino actually has a smaller than average career platoon split, but with so few PA we’d regress almost all the way to normal. So even against the left tonight, his .297 ZiPS wOBA would only move to .309 – still second worst on the team.

So Buck made two decisions with the line-up today that probably won’t matter, but show a process I wouldn’t like employed over the long run. This does not make Buck a bad manager, and I would strenuously object to any claims that I think I’d be a better manager or that I know more about baseball overall than Buck. But if he thinks Robert Andino is a good enough hitter that he should get more PA at the expense of Nick Markakis, Derrek Lee, Luke Scott, Matt Wieters, etc., then he’s mistaken. It’s OK – some of us can accept that he’s a good, but not perfect, manager.

Stats: UZR, wOBA, Sample Size, Projections, Platoon Splits, BABIP