It’s the eternal discussion on RZ when the lineups go up: why is X playing, why is Z hitting cleanup, many times countered with the “lineups aren’t important, its how players perform” or “its who plays” along with technical studies of how much is gained or lost by placing player in a particular order.
I’ll take sides in the argument and state why I think they are important, without the use of differential equations (which I can’t remember how to use anyway).
-- There are TWO managers
Yep. One will set his batting order and the other manager will set his pitching order. The game dynamic will determine WHO is going to pitch to that batting order. If the hitters can get to starters or get his pitch out up…a middle reliever may appear (usually a worse pitcher). If not, it could be Starter, Set up guy, Closer…usually a poor combination against which to bat.
Getting ahead EARLY is critical. A “B” reliever is most likely to pitch when the opposing team is ahead. Its not the same to come up with RISP down by two in the ninth facing Billy Wagner, than up by 3 facing Todd Coffey in the 6th.
Leading in the score leads to more scoring. Scoring leads to more scoring and winning. And winning leads to even more winning.
By the same measure, its not the same to face a pitcher on his 25th pitch of the inning, as on his 6th pitch. The batting order can influence that part of the game dynamic ALSO. That one pitch out by the leadoff guy could be a reason for why the starter has gas to strike out the cleanup batter in the 6th.
The point is a .280 hitter may not be a .280 hitter in a different batting order or on a different team. We often wonder if a “change of scenery” is responsible for a certain players’ improved (or not) performance. Perhaps its not the Texas heat or the Miami nightlife…it’s the situation (team, order, opponents) that player is facing.
Certainly, things may even out over a season…but perhaps not. Hitting seems to be contagious, since the game dynamic gives ever more power to the leader…the winner.
Plate appearances are not random occurrences, the outcome is which is a random variation of that particular batters' characteristics. It ain’t STRAT-O-MATIC.
Which brings me back to the batting order.
It’s the opening move of the chess game, with a more than proportional influence of the rest of the match. It has a great influence on the outcome AND the performance of the players towards that outcome. You can argue that the player’s performance led to the outcome, but the sequence of events that put them in the situation to perform, started with the lineup.
Think of the 1976 REDS: Rose, Griffey, Morgan. All three with OBPs of over .400. The slowest one of the three (Rose) led off. So it began, Opposing pitchers were against the ropes from the get go. Bench even stunk up the joint with the stick that year…it didn’t matter. The REDS scored half a run MORE per game than the second best offensive team (Phillies) and TWO runs more than the worst (Expos). Talent? Yes..loads of it.
But well employed.
Starting with the batting order.