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On Smart Sabermetrics and Stupid Lineups

The machinations behind the Dodgers daily line ups absolutely baffle me. Let’s use yesterday’s game against the Diamondbacks as an example.

On one hand, the Dodgers made a smart move by dropping Adrian Gonzalez down to fifth in the batting order. I’ve called for that for the past few weeks. We all know Agone has been one of the premier clean up men in his career, but let’s keep it real – Gonzalez has suffered a sever power outage this season.

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I’ll drink the Gonzo kool-aid and believe his bat will come around eventually, but that doesn’t mean I want a non-home run hitter in my team’s clean up spot. Apparently, after a Golden Sombrero night, the Dodgers decided they don’t want that either. Dropping Gonzalez to the five hole (until his power returns) is a good baseball move.

However, in the very same game, the one where they made a smart move, they made the absolutely unjustifiable tweak of batting Enrique Hernandez lead off.

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Kiké is in a season-long slump. He’s shown occasional flashes of hitting, but so did Carl Crawford. A few hits here and there doesn’t make you a consistent hitter – and it sure as heck doesn’t make you a lead off candidate.

Before the game Kike was 0 for 9 over the past week. For some insane reason, they thought it would be a genius move to let him bat in the spark plug position.

You be Andrew Friedman or Dave Roberts for a minute. You’ve got Kike – in a slump – all season – currently 0 for 9. Is he your first pick for lead off batter? He sure aint my pick.

I’m sure the skipper was shocked – SHOCKED – when Kiké – batting lead off – went O for 3.

The lead off batter’s job is to get rallies started. Common sense says you don’t hand that responsibility to someone who hasn’t started a rally in a month, while shuffling the rest of the lineup following him.

For good measure, they sat Joc Pederson, whose bat was still smoking from hitting two home runs last night. Because lefty-righty mathematics.

Let’s face it, if Scott Van Slyke did not catch lightning in a bottle, and hit that home run, the Dodgers would have wasted another great outing from a starting pitcher, which is threatening to become a pattern with them.

I get it. Sabermetrics is the new religion in baseball, and it isn’t going anywhere. The guys using slide rules and three-dimensional math are running things for the Dodgers now, but they’ve got to realize there will always be a place for the guys with panama hats and big cigars as well. Good ol’ baseball common sense ran the sport’s dynamics pretty well for the first 150 years, and it would behoove the Dodgers to embraced it this season as well.

I guess the charts and numbers said that batting Justin Turner third for the first two months of the season made sense because of his tendencies over the past couple of seasons. However, the old-fashioned eye test should have told anyone with common sense that for two months straight Turner was not getting the job done in that slot.

A hole in the lineup – in one of the most critical batting slots in the order – is going to hurt the offense’s chances, and it did. Turner was a red albatross. (A side note: he broke out of that slump the day after I wrote that albatross story, thank you very much.)

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The Dodgers Nation is very happy JT turned that corner, as the sabermetrics followers and his fans knew he would all along – but for the love of Lasorda, did he have to bat THIRD all season for that to happen? Who knows how many games the Dodgers might have won with a better hitting player in that slot.

Hitting is contagious. I believe that. There’s a reason the top half of a lineup consists of the team’s best hitters, all in a row. They build on one another and they feed off one another. They spark and energize themselves, the club, and the fans packing the stadium. THAT’S why you don’t sit a player who is emerging from a slump, seeing and hitting the ball well, and generating home run power. That’s why you don’t sit Joc Pederson and cool him off.

So Friedman and Roberts’ genius move was to bat slumping Kike lead off because that might spark him into finally hitting? OK, that’s a theory (one that I don’t agree with), but do you really have to test that theory on the same night you also jerk the lineup around because the other pitcher is left-handed? Do you put the coldest bat in the lead off spot on the same night you sit the guy who smacked two home runs the previous night?

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All of that said, the opposite of contagious hitting is also true. Non-hitting batters at the top of the lineup adversely affect a teams offensive abilities. I’m not talking about a good hitter having an occasional bad night. I’m all for trusting a normally reliable bat to fight through a ten, or even a twenty-game slump. But waiting two months – and longer – while the offense hits a roadblock every time the top of the order comes around is not how to win a pennant.

The Dodgers have fallen into an offensive rut of scoring in the first inning, sleeping through the middle innings, and then getting an occasional solo home run in the later innings.  That will win a couple of games on a homestand, and a few more on a road trip, but it’s not the type of consistent offensive attack that is going to win a division, or survive through a tough playoffs tournament. It certainly will not win a World Series.

There are those who insist this team won’t win regardless of whatever may come. I say this team has potential to at least win the NL West. A few roster tweaks will have to occur, but the potential is there.

Until those changes occur, smart maneuvering of the daily line up is critical. Moving Adrian Gonzalez was a good first step. Now we need management to stop stepping in it by crippling the team’s offense by intentionally punching holes into the top of the batting order.

Oscar Martinez

I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

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Oscar Martinez
I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

21 thoughts on “On Smart Sabermetrics and Stupid Lineups

  1. I think they bat Kike at the top of the order to lessen the chances he comes up with men on, which tends to make him swing for the fences, but yeah. When you have as many guys not hitting as the Dodgers making out a lineup gets tricky; they’ve tried just about everything short of batting the pitcher eighth. (Note to Mgr: the record for most different lineups in a season just became more attainable.) But whatever the lineup, when hitters come up with the bases loaded and less than two outs and you don’t score, over and over, something is seriously wrong.

    1. Snider
      Even batting lead off, didn’t stop Kike, from swinging for a HR. And I understand why you don’t want Kike up to bat, with runners on base. He has been killing us lately.

  2. Oscar
    I guess we think a like. Because that is the same way I felt about that line up.

    I would have played Utley to, if he didn’t need a break.

    And by the way, both Utley and Joc, have decent stats against Conroy, so that makes this line up, look even worse.

    And we were lucky that Scott hit that HR, with the way that offense looked yesterday.

  3. Oscar:
    If your’e talking about who bats where in yesterday’s lineup, I’m in complete agreement with you. If, however, like some have mentioned, that Joc have played, I disagree.
    The eight starting hitters were the best vs LHP. Grandal, Joc and Utley were the worst. Kike was the worst at .224 except for SVS but he only had five AB’s.
    Joc was only 3-23(.130 BA) and derserved to sit since runs were and still are at a premium for our batters(only a few I would call hitters)

    1. I was using yesterday’s lineup for the article, but over the entire season they have used too many different line ups and batting useless hitters in critical spots for periods that go way too long.
      As for Joc, I would like to see him get his chances against lefty pitchers. Especially when he’s seeing the ball so well, and hitting with power.
      The stat heads will insist on the platoons…ok…so be it, but don’t sit a hot bat while also putting cold bats in high profile slots.

    2. Well, Utley’s career splits vs LHP are nowhere near as bad as this year, which is a small sample skewed by facing more LOOGYs. Of course Kike has killed LHP in his career, so at some point a manager has to go with his gut. Probably the fact that Utley needs some rest at 37 plays a big part. Someone said Joc had hit this pitcher in the past, but it could have been early last year when he was hot.

      Oscar, if you don’t stop being critical of the managers moves you could end up with a podcast like Kevin Kennedy 😉

        1. Oscar
          I don’t like that Roberts is resting Turner, and Agone, on the same night!

          I understand Agone needing a day off, but Turner is just heating up.

          1. Oscar
            I just saw the line up on TV, and only Turner is off to night. I thought the line up on line, had both Turner and Agone, having a day off.

      1. Snider
        That may be a step up for Oscar. And he would get payed. If you meant that in a negative way, Snider.

    3. Richie F
      That stat was true for lefties, but Joc and Utley, had 333 average, against the pitcher Conroy himself, so that stat was even more discreet.

  4. Second guessers are never wrong. It’s a total waste of time because you know what happened but you don’t know what would have happened. To me,it’s CS by someone who wants to run something but has never ran anything but a mouth. It is just plain dumb!

    1. I’m not clear who it is you are calling dumb this time. Is your rage aimed at someone specific or are you just howling at the moon? Not that there is anything wrong with that. A good howl now and then eases the pressure.

  5. I’m a Giants fan and even I’m sick and tired of seeing Dave Roberts putting out the lamest lineups in all of baseball. A good lineup can make all the difference.

  6. I say AVS,neends to go, hasn’t really produced , and we need a catcher , one that can hit over the medoza line , really bad , to many time that spot has been up with RISP, and failed to move one over , or produce a run ,, , just my opinion

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