I was talking with a fellow RZer this morning, and we got on the topic of lineup construction/batting order. And we start talking mainly about the sabermetrics position on this subject, and the conversation also included "The Book: Playing The Percentages in Baseball" by Tango.
I've heard this book referenced at times on here in various discussions; but personally have not read it. I'm correcting that and ordering a copy today.
But I'm going to post an insert from the book on batting order below.
And correct me if I am wrong; but it seems the sabermetrics position is that batting order, because it is a continuous loop, does not matter. You can't hide a batter.
So you can bat them wherever? It just doesn't matter?
Now if most who are into statistical analysis - and I'm asking this from an educational position, not confrontational - agree with this premise that batting order does not matter, then why, over these last many years on this forum, do we continuously hear many lament over where various players are batting, and that guys with a high OB% should be at the top of the order if lineups are a continuous loop, each player gets his turn, and you're never going to have, for the most part, the same guy leading off every inning?
Isn't that then a contradiction? Doesn't even Bill James state that batting order does not matter, the number of runs a team scored would be roughly the same over a course of the season.
So what about the thinking that involes the idea of alternating lefties and righties, batters offering "protection", speed at the top of the lineup with bat control in the number two spot, etc., etc., etc.?
One thing we do know is that the higher a player hits in the order, the more times they will come to the plate
Batting #1750 PABatting #2725 PABatting #3710 PABatting #4700 PABatting #5680 PABatting #6660 PABatting #7640 PABatting #8625 PABatting #9580 PA
Chapter 5: Batting (Dis)Order
One of the running themes throughout this book is context. To understand the impact of your possible choices, you have to understand the environment in which you are working. Context. Whenever you are trying to figure out what to do, take a step back, and ask yourself, “What's the context?” Context, context, context. We can't repeat it enough.
In this chapter, we'll turn our attention to the batting order and how to construct an optimal lineup. What does conventional wisdom say about this? Some managers or fans think you want a fast guy at the top of the order, without too much regard for how often he gets on base; others think that OBP is the most important attribute for a leadoff hitter, and that speed is secondary. You want the #2 hitter to move the runner over into scoring position, even if it means getting an out; therefore he should be a proficient bunter with excellent bat control. Your #3 batter should be a very good hitter, maybe your best—unless you want your best hitter batting cleanup. Then, maybe set up a lefty-righty situation down the order, trying to end with your worst batters at the bottom of the lineup. There, easy, end of chapter.
But why. Why? Why must the order follow such a pattern? Let's take a step back and understand the context of the batting order.
The most important context of the batting order is that it is a continuous loop. You get to set your batting order 1 through 9, and each player takes his turn. Once the inning completes, the next batter leads off the next inning. So the term leadoff batter is a bit of a misnomer. He's the leadoff batter of the game, but he won't often lead off an inning.
What if the rules were set so that the batting order is restored at the start of each inning. Tim Raines would lead off the first, second, third, and all the way through the ninth, innings. If those were the rules—if that were the context—you'd need a new strategy in place to determine the optimal lineup. One-quarter of the time, you'd end up having a 1–2–3 inning, leaving your cleanup batter on deck. In the current rules of baseball, the benefit of that huge cost is that he gets to bat in the following inning. In this fictitious league, it's the #1 hitter who will lead off the second inning. You will realize rather quickly that you can't have your best hitter in the cleanup spot if he will have 25% fewer PA than your top three hitters.
If we go back to the real world of baseball, we realize that you can't hide a batter. The best you can do is to defer him to the bottom of the batting order. But even batting ninth, he will eventually come up. How often will he come up?