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Monday, November 05, 2012

Goldman: The Yankees, Michael Bourn, and Leadoff Hitters

The Bourn Losers: One-against-odds!

I’ve written this many times over the years, so forgive me if you’ve seen this before, but the old-time conception of the batting order is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. There have been great leadoff men who were high-volume basestealers (Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines) and great leadoff men who were not (Wade Boggs, Pete Rose, Lou Whitaker). The batting order doesn’t does a little to stimulate interactions between batters or set up sequences that lead to runs, but it’s more properly viewed as a machine to distribute playing time. The player who bats first every day is going to have the most plate appearances on your team, the player who bats second is going to have the second-most, all the way down to the number nine hitter, who might bat 150 times less than the guy in the leadoff spot.

When a manager lists a player somewhere on the lineup card, he is saying, “I think you should play today.” When he lists that player in the leadoff spot, he is saying, “I think you should play more often than anyone else.” It’s a qualitative judgment that has traditionally been reduced to speed, but consider playing time and ask yourself: if each player is at his best, who is a more productive leadoff man, Michael Bourn or Derek Jeter? Sure, Bourn is more likely to steal a base, but his career on-base percentage is .339, Jeter’s is .382. Who is more likely to open a game with a double? Who is more likely to lead off with a home run? Who is more likely to take a walk?

Again, Jeter may not be the same Jeter next year, so I’m not insisting that the leadoff man has to be him. I’m suggesting that to sign Bourn and elevate him to the top of the lineup based purely on his great speed (which is different than being a great percentage base-stealer—he’s not) will probably fractionally retard run creation rather than enhance it. Bourn’s value is in giving his team a little bit of offense and a whole lot of defense. He would be a worthy signing (assuming the price and length are right), especially if that meant keeping Gardner in left field and pushing Curtis Granderson to right field. That would probably be the best defensive Yankees outfield of my lifetime.

As far as hitting at the top of the order, though, Nick Swisher would make a better leadoff man.

Repoz Posted: November 05, 2012 at 08:30 PM | 11 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: yankees

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   1. Tricky Dick Posted: November 05, 2012 at 10:56 PM (#4293975)
which is different than being a great percentage base-stealer—he’s not

Bourn has a career stolen base percentage of 80%. That seems pretty good to me.
   2. Walt Davis Posted: November 05, 2012 at 11:25 PM (#4293997)
How many CFs do the Yankees need?
   3. Sunday silence Posted: November 05, 2012 at 11:25 PM (#4293999)
when we get back to batting order permutations, it occurs to me that this calls into question the runs created formula and how it pertains to wins. The last time I read about this they were saying e.g. 10 runs equals one win. But since any normal manager would put his best guys at the top of the batting order, then the little things that create runs; SB, hits, walks, extra base hits, would naturally clump somewhat in the higher parts of the order. And therefore, however valuable these little things that create runs are, they would likely go a longer way to scoring a run when they occur in the upper parts of the batting order.

So if say it takes 3 singles to score 1.2 runs and you need 8 of these two win a ball game. This is only assuming a random distribution of these fractional events (hits, walks etc) right? Therefore batters in the upper parts of the order are going to have different runs created values for the same events as those guys lower in the order. Right? If we give into reality and assume that batting order makes a difference, and fractional events are therefore NOT randomly distributed over the course of a batting order over the course of a season. They clump together at least a little (how do we measure "clumpiness?") and they produce more runs when the guys next to you in the order are likely to move you up the base paths..

So if all that follows, then the repercussion would be that a Derek Jeter might not need 10 runs created to win a ball game but maybe only 8.5? Because if he got 30 singles to create a 10 runs, under a random distribution model (and a runs created formula that fits everyone equally) then in a reality based model,he actually created 12 runs, so his events accounted for 1.2 wins in reality and not 1.0 wins. Thats what I'm trying to say.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: November 06, 2012 at 02:44 AM (#4294128)
Well, how do you like your runs created? :-)

This is essentially what lineup simulators are about so it's not something that's not known. But who gets credit for the run created is just not worth getting into a fuss over especially when the difference between an optimized lineup and a realistic alternative is on the order of 20 runs or 2 wins max over a season ... that doesn't work out to a lot of extra/less RC to give any player -- i.e. it's not on the order of 12 for 10. You can also get at this sort of stuff by incorporating stuff like WPA into offense ... which I think WAR does to an extent.

And, if anything, Jeter's hits might produce fewer, not more, runs because he's coming up less often with men on base. The guys whose hits are optimized are probably the 3 and 4 hitters -- men on base ahead of them, men behind to drive them in, except the #3 hitter has the most PA with 2 outs and nobody on. In the end all you're saying is that a hit with a man on base is better than a hit with nobody on base and reaching base ahead of good hitters is worth more than getting on base ahead of bad hitters. Yes, but it's not clear which of those hitters deserves credit for the "extra" value created and, if you're going to adjust, better to adjust for that actual mix than for lineup position.

But, yes, in the end, RC (and most everything else including BA and HR but not RBI) is saying "all Miguel Cabrera can do is hit the double, he didn't create the guys who scored on it and he didn't create the single that scored him."

That does give me the question of whether anybody has ranked managers by how well they optimize their lineups (given what they've got and rest/injuries and such). Take the 8 or 9 guys they decided to start that day, how far from the optimal lineup are they?
   5. Rants Mulliniks Posted: November 06, 2012 at 08:05 AM (#4294175)
fractionally retard

If you're going to do it at all, you might as well go full retard.
   6. kthejoker Posted: November 06, 2012 at 10:25 AM (#4294321)
#1: Jeter's career percentage is 79%. Not really an argument in Bourn's favor.

Also Jason Bay is currently 7th alltime with an 85% clip. If you took out his 2004 4/6 season, he'd be #1 all-time. The man doesn't steal much, but he knows how to get it done.
   7. SoSH U at work Posted: November 06, 2012 at 10:34 AM (#4294343)
#1: Jeter's career percentage is 79%. Not really an argument in Bourn's favor.

No, but it's surely an argument against Goldman's line that Bourn is not a good percentage basestealer. I'm guessing Goldman must have misread Bourn's numbers, because there's no way 81 percent can be described that way.
   8. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: November 06, 2012 at 10:39 AM (#4294348)
From the age of 38 on, Barry Bonds was 21-for-22.
   9. catomi01 Posted: November 06, 2012 at 11:17 AM (#4294395)
especially if that meant keeping Gardner in left field and pushing Curtis Granderson to right field. That would probably be the best defensive Yankees outfield of my lifetime.

I'd imagine granderson's arm will play as well in right as Bernie Williams' did...realistically - unless you think hamilton can stay healthy/productive the next 5 years, swisher is the best bet (if his price isn't insane) as an OF option freely available right now. Maybe its just the media coverage of his post-season woes, but to me he's still a guy who's actual value is much higher than his perceived value.
   10. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: November 06, 2012 at 12:39 PM (#4294547)

If you're going to do it at all, you might as well go full retard.

Never go full retard.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: November 06, 2012 at 02:59 PM (#4294809)
Davey Lopes from 33-40: 244-37
He slumped to 27-9 at ages 41-42.

There's Mr. Ridiculous and his 340-86 ratio for 33-40. Who cares about the %age, Rickey led the league with 66 steals at 39. He closed it out with 72-20 for 41 to 44.

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