2015 MLB Season Preview: Straying From the Status Quo: A Sabermetrically Optimized Look at Opening Day Lineups – Part 1 NL East

Not too long ago, brought to my attention was an article¹ written by Scott McKinney in 2011 (yes I know, old) that I found applicable to today’s MLB. The article talks about “sabermetric managing” and how it could influence major league teams in positive ways and also discusses different traditions that should be altered. What I would like to focus on is the first part of the article, examining standard hitting lineups against “optimized” hitting lineups. Back when this was first published, it was said that optimized lineups generated 5-15 more runs per season than the standard lineups. This could result in 1-2 wins over the course of a big league season, which in reality could be the resulting factor in a playoff berth.

Using the formula expressed in the article, I am going to compare the opening day lineups from this season to an optimized version of the same lineup. However, if a team by chance is missing a starting player due to injury, they will also be left out of the optimized lineup to counterbalance. Also, for the optimized lineups the “best hitters” will be ranked accordingly to their projected wRC+ (from Fan Graphs) for the upcoming season (not just my own opinion) in order to prevent any variables.  Lastly, if an American League team has their opening day game in a National League ballpark, their lineup will be from their first game back under American League rules. These numbers will provide us with knowledge of which managers (or general managers) deviate the most or least from sabermetric-based lineups and will then allow for visitation of the the statistics at a later date to see which lineup works better over the course of a 162 game regular season for each team in 2015.

This article will be dedicated to the National League East Division, breaking down the lineups of the New York Mets, Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves:

New York Mets –

Opening Day

1. Granderson, RF
2. Wright, D, 3B
3. Duda, 1B
4. Cuddyer, LF
5. Murphy, Dn, 2B
6. Lagares, CF
7. d’Arnaud, T, C
8. Flores, W, SS
9. Pitcher Spot

Optimized Lineup

1. Wright, D, 3B
2. Cuddyer, LF
3. Granderson, RF
4. Duda, 1B
5. d’Arnaud, T, C
6. Murphy, Dn, 2B
7. Flores, W, SS
8. Lagares, CF
9. Pitcher Spot

Washington Nationals –

Opening Day

1. Taylor, CF*
2. Escobar, Y, 3B
3. Harper, RF
4. Zimmerman, 1B
5. Ramos, C
6. Desmond, SS
7. Uggla, 2B*
8. Moore, T, LF*
9. Pitcher Spot

Optimized Lineup

1. Harper, RF
2. Ramos, C
3. Moore, T, LF*
4. Zimmerman, 1B
5. Desmond, SS
6. Escobar, Y, 3B
7. Uggla, 2B*
8. Taylor, CF*
9. Pitcher Spot

Miami Marlins –

Opening Day

1. Gordon, D, 2B
2. Yelich, LF
3. Stanton, RF
4. Morse, 1B
5. Prado, 3B
6. Ozuna, CF
7. Saltalamacchia, C
8. Hechavarria, SS
9. Pitcher Spot

Optimized Lineup

1. Stanton, RF
2. Yelich, LF
3. Prado, 3B
4. Morse, 1B
5. Ozuna, CF
6. Saltalamacchia, C
7. Gordon, D, 2B
8. Hechavarria, SS
9. Pitcher Spot

Philadelphia Phillies –

Opening Day

1. Revere, LF
2. Herrera, CF
3. Utley, 2B
4. Howard, 1B
5. Ruiz, C
6. Sizemore, G, RF*
7. Asche, 3B
8. Galvis, SS
9. Pitcher Spot

Optimized Lineup

1. Ruiz, C
2. Utley, 2B
3. Revere, LF
4. Asche, 3B
5. Howard, 1B
6. Sizemore, G, RF*
7. Galvis, SS
8. Herrera, CF
9. Pitcher Spot

Atlanta Braves –

Opening Day

1. Young, Jr., CF
2. Peterson, J, 2B
3. Markakis, RF
4. Freeman, F, 1B
5. Bethancourt, C
6. Johnson, K, LF
7. Callaspo, 3B
8. Simmons, A, SS
9. Pitcher Spot

Optimized Lineup

1. Freeman, F, 1B
2. Johnson, K, LF
3. Callaspo, 3B
4. Markakis, RF
5. Simmons, A, SS
6. Bethancourt, C
7. Young, Jr., CF
8. Peterson, J, 2B
9. Pitcher Spot

* denotes player filling in for a projected starter who is injured

From first glance it is apparent that most lineups leadoff hitter would be (arguably) their best hitter. Even though they sometimes don’t possess speed, they have a knack for getting on base and having a high OBP, which is the job of a leadoff hitter.

It appears that Miami’s lineup is the closest to an optimized lineup out of the bunch. Of course this is all speculatively speaking, but perhaps they do believe in sabermetrics and their influence on MLB teams.

Coming up next we will be following the trends of the National League Central Division.


¹ McKinney, Scott. “The Definitive Sabermetric Guide to Managing.” SB Nation Beyond the Box Score. 14 April 2011. Web. 07 April 2015. <http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2011/4/14/2110082/why-dont-sabermetric-gms-have-sabermetric-managers-and-shouldnt-they&gt;

5 comments on “2015 MLB Season Preview: Straying From the Status Quo: A Sabermetrically Optimized Look at Opening Day Lineups – Part 1 NL East

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