Twitter Debates over the best lineup are rampant these days. I addressed the 2021 lineup in an article in September. This will be the summary and shorter version of that for 2022 that we can revisit as things change.
Fortunately, I discovered a cool website that allows one to test different lineups. It uses a very simple model where the only thing one needs is the OBP and the SLG for each player. The website is here. You may want to play with the math model there. If you do let me know what you discover. Note- we are going to use the statistics as they are on 6/10/22. We are not going to assume predicted stats or shifts in performance.
Given the data we need let’s lay out the Astros roster. Dusty Baker has had to use multiple lineups due to injury and performance challenges.
The base lineup I used in the model is this.
The good thing is the tool itself spits out the optimal lineup
The lineup is not as strong as last year's. There are many options for last year's lineup that the model predicted more than 5.5 runs per game.
The Current Base Lineup
The lineup the Astros have used the most is shown to the left.
This Lineup is model predicted to score 4.79 runs per game. Yes, the lineup the Astros have used this year is down 0.7 runs per game as a prediction from last year.
However, that lineup would be SIXTH best in the MLB. SO what is the problem? The Astros have ONLY scored 4.11 runs per game. So the lineup is scoring almost 0.7 runs less than it should given the OBP and SLG of the players in the lineup.
The Tucker 5 Lineups
Dusty Baker has occasionally batting Tucker fifth lately. Is this a good idea?
In short - Yes. Moving Tucker to 5 adds 0.08 runs per game (13 runs per year).
If Pena was slotted in at six, McCormick seven and then Gurriel eight this would add another 0.03 runs per game (5 runs per year). I would say this should become the new base lineup.
Note for those that want to know- the model says playing Siri instead of McCormick costs the Astros 0.12 runs per game. Dusty doesn't apparently believe that.
The Optimal Lineup
What does the Baseball Musings site predict is the optimal lineup? It's pretty radically different than normal. How would you respond if you saw THIS lineup?
This lineup is predicted to produce 5.05 runs per game- 0.26 runs per game more than the standard lineup (42 runs per year.)
The baseball musings model is very simplistic. What if one was able to incorporate style of batter vs. style of pitcher and park and weather effects on any night to determine the best lineup THAT night? I am confident that if we are not there yet, the teams will be soon. A manager can get a printout of who would be the best to use in what order tonight.
The reality is individual matchups, platoon splits, capabilities vs. pitch type and other factors are as big or bigger effects than perhaps this simple model can predict.
So what about the impacts of the trades I have proposed over the last two days at catcher and 1B? For these options I have tweaked the line from the Tucker 5 or Base Lineup. Remember those lineups are predicted to produce 4.79-4.9 runs per game.
Getting Contreras alone (losing McCormick in the deal) raises the runs per game to 5.37. This is HUGE!
Getting Mancini alone raises the run total per game to 5.16. This is BIG!
Doing both? This takes the predicted runs to OVER 2021 levels 5.57 runs per game.
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