Optimizing The Yankee Lineup

In recent comments, Joe Girardi suggested that he is considering tinkering with the Yankees lineup:

“We’ll continue to talk about our lineup and how guys fit in,” Girardi said. “Right now we don’t expect a ton of changes. We’ve talked about some things internally that we might try to do. I don’t really want to get into it, but we’re not really sure exactly how our lineup’s going to break… We might play around a little bit in spring training.”

While he is unlikely to make radical changes, I wondered what it might be like if a real saber junkie was filling out the lineup card for the Yankees. I decided to look at how the Yankee lineup would be constructed under two statistical frameworks, using career statistics to estimate performance:

1) By “The Book,” with help from Sky Kalkman’s excellent summary of the relevant methodology:

Another way to look at things is to order the batting slots by the leveraged value of the out. In plain English (sort of), we want to know how costly making an out is by each lineup position, based on the base-out situations they most often find themselves in, and then weighted by how often each lineup spot comes to the plate. Here’s how the lineup spots rank in the importance of avoiding outs:

#1, #4, #2, #5, #3, #6, #7, #8, #9

So, you want your best three hitters to hit in the #1, #4, and #2 spots. Distribute them so OBP is higher in the order and SLG is lower. Then place your fourth and fifth best hitters, with the #5 spot usually seeing the better hitter, unless he’s a high-homerun guy. Then place your four remaining hitters in decreasing order of overall hitting ability, with basestealers ahead of singles hitters. Finally, stop talking like the lineup is a make-or-break decision.

Using career numbers does not give recent performance enough weight, so I attempted to account for that at the margins. Where two players were close, I gave the edge to the player who had been more successful in that split over recent seasons. Depending on how much weight you give such factors, these rankings could change wildly, so I am willing to accept any suggestions regarding how to rank the players.

Against righties, I would say that Alex Rodriguez is clearly their best hitter, and then Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson are fairly interchangeable in the next 2 slots, with Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano trailing behind them. Nick Swisher, Derek Jeter, Brett Gardner, and Russell Martin round out the lineup in that order.

Against lefties, Jeter, Rodriguez, and Teixeira are the Yankees’ best hitters. Jorge Posada, Nick Swisher, and Robinson Cano are the next group of 3, and Russell Martin, Brett Gardner, and Curtis Granderson finish this lineup. If Andruw Jones plays, he fits into that second group and Cano slides down a slot.

This is how I would order them, based on the rules that Sky laid out in his post:

vRHP
Rodriguez
Teixeira
Posada
Granderson
Cano
Swisher
Gardner
Jeter
Martin

Rodriguez is clearly the best hitter and fits the OBP requirements of the leadoff position. Teixeira got the 2 spot while Granderson is at cleanup due to Teixeira likely having a better OBP. Cano is then placed at 5, and Posada fits nicely in the 3 spot. Swisher, the best remaining hitter, is 6th, while Gardner precedes Jeter and Martin by dint of being a basestealer.

vLHP (assuming the typical starting 9)

Teixeira
Jeter
Swisher
Rodriguez
Posada
Cano
Martin
Gardner
Granderson

VLHP (if Jones plays)
Teixeira
Jeter
Swisher
Rodriguez
Posada
Jones
Cano
Martin
Gardner/Granderson

Based on recent performance, I deemed Teixeira the best of the top 3 hitters, and then placed A-Rod at cleanup and Jeter at #2. The remainder of these lineups fit easily with the evaluations of talent that I made above.

2) The Lineup Analysis tool at Baseball Musings allows you to input statistics for the 9 players and then estimates the runs that would be scored by each permutation. This is the best Yankee lineup against righties:

Posada
Rodriguez
Jeter
Granderson
Teixeira
Swisher
Cano
Martin
Gardner

Against lefties, without Jones:

Martin
Teixeira
Swisher
Rodriguez
Jeter
Cano
Posada
Granderson
Gardner

Against lefties, with Jones:

Martin
Teixeira
Posada
Rodriguez
Jeter
Cano
Jones
Granderson/Gardner
Swisher

I certainly do not expect Girardi to use either of these lineups, despite the fact that they would optimize the team’s ability to score runs. Remember, the ordering of the lineup impacts just a handful of runs per season, such that it is likely not worth the bruised egos to fiddle with established lineup positions. Rather, I expect that Joe will use the following perfectly reasonable combinations, much like he did last season:

Vs. RHP
Jeter
Granderson
Teixeira
Rodriguez
Cano
Swisher
Posada
Martin
Gardner

Vs. LHP
Jeter
Swisher
Teixeira
Rodriguez
Cano
Posada
Granderson/Jones
Martin
Gardner/Granderson

What would your lineup look like?

19 thoughts on “Optimizing The Yankee Lineup

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Optimizing The Yankee Lineup | New York Yankees blog, Yankees blog, A blog about the New York Yankees | The Yankee Analysts -- Topsy.com

  2. yankees just inquired on tim hudson. braves said no way. derek lowe is avaiable though. apparently yankees dont like what the braves are asking for lowe in prospects. plus he has 2 years at 30 mil left on his contract. i like lowe but only for b level prospect or two. word is cashman is turning over every rock looking for a starter but has had no luck thus far. if we cant get a starter before spring training ends it wont be for a lack of trying.

  3. Oops. The link was in there originally, but I had to rewrite the entire post because I originally wrote it without doing it by platoon split, and I must have forgotten. SOrry about that.

    As for Martin, it depends on how he and Jeter hit. Unless Jeter craters, he is likely to lead off, but I can see a situation where Martin gets as high as #2 against lefties.

  4. My line-up would be
    Gardner
    Cano
    Jeter
    ARod
    Tex
    Posada
    Swisher
    Granderson
    Martin

    I like Gardner because I think he makes an excellent lead-off hitter. Add another 150 Abs to him, project his OBP and increase in SBs and Runs.

    I like Cano batting second to give him the chance Mattingly had with Rickey…more fastballs due to SB threat. Also allows him to get more ABs, especially late in tight games.

    With his new batting stance and IMO projeted power increase, I think Jeter would be great in 3 hole. Lifetime, he has hit better there than any other spot.

    ARod in 4, Tex in 5, and rest is interchangable IMO.

  5. In looking at the line-up analysis tool, it seems to me that it does not take into account baserunning stats, and the impact of those skills on runs scored. Thus it seems flawed.

    I would love to see it updated to somehow look at ability to steal, go from 1st to 3rd or 2nd to home, and perhaps runs scored as percentage of something other than homers.

    It would also be interesting to see some impact of RISP ability and ability to advance runners…It would be interesting to see how many times each position in order comes to plate with RISP, and figure out where the optimal position is for hitters with high RISP stats or ability to advance runner stats.

    Not taking these factors into account really makes the tool less useful IMO.

  6. I wish I had the last 2 minutes of my life back. These lineups have 0% chance of actually being used.