John Walsh of THT did an interesting study recently in which he looked at trends in OBP at the leadoff spot over time. What he found was a bit strange:

As the data shows, teams have been placing players with below average on-base skills in the leadoff spot for much of the last decade. This exhibits a failure to properly optimize the lineup, as it tends to result in fewer runners being on base for a club’s big hitters. Joe Pawlikowski at RAB touched on the issue of optimizing the top of the lineup yesterday in explaining why Nick Johnson should hit second:

To illustrate this point, let’s take an ideal scenario. Jeter and Johnson both hit in front of Teixeira for all of Teixeira’s plate appearances, and they OBP somewhere around their 2009 totals, .400 and .420. Running a quick percentage check, this means that Teixeira would come to bat with both runners on 16.8 percent of the time, and at least one runner on about 65 percent of the time. Given Teixeira’s 707 plate appearances from 2009, that means he’d come to bat with at least one runner on 460 times, and two runners on 119 times…..

Last year, with Jeter’s .400 OBP and Damon’s .365, Teixeira had a 14.6 percent chance of coming to the plate with both runners on, or 62 percent with at least one runner on…..If Granderson recovers to his 2008 form, he’s essentially a clone of Damon. While that’s good, and while he’ll be able to take extra bases that Johnson will not, I think that the added plate appearances give the Yankees a bigger advantage. It means more opportunities for Tex and A-Rod.

To sum up, Johnson batting second means more opportunities with runners on for Teixeira and Rodriguez. The Yankees need to keep this in mind and avoid the problem Walsh discusses in his study, whereby teams are placing fast players who do not reach base frequently in lineup slots ahead of their big boppers. Rather, they should stack as many high-OBP players in front of Tex and A-Rod as possible. In fact, Dave Pinto suggested that the Yankees should consider batting Johnson 9th as a second leadoff man. This would allow Johnson and Jeter to reach base for power hitters such as Granderson (who would hit second), Tex, and A-Rod. A similar option would be to put Nick Swisher or Granderson 9th and keeping Johnson at #2, which might be a good way to further optimize the lineup and provide as many opportunities as possible for the middle of the order hitters to bat with men on base.

How would you optimize the lineup?

2 Responses to “The Importance Of Putting OBP At Top Of Lineups”

  1. Agree with Joe P. that Jeter and Johnson,when healthy, at the top of the order is the way to go for the reasons stated though the math is somewhat faulty.Realize this is a bit trivial but the percentage of the time Texeira would come to the plate with both men on base , assuming a duplication of last years on base percentages, is not simply .4 x .42 or 16.8% of the time. This does not take into account the times that Johnson will actually drive in Jeter with a base hit or the handful of times Jeter is caught stealing while Nick is at the plate, both of which will drive that 16.8 number down or the less-than a -handful of times that Nick will reach on an error when Jeter is on base, moving it back up slightly. However, the greater point holds that Nick’s significantly greater on-base percentage should override the extra runs generated by Granderson’s speed.

    As for Pinto’s point, it’s silly for two reasons. First, by moving Johnson to 9th from 2nd , you would be taking 7/9 of an at bat away per game- 126 over the course of a year- from one of your best on base guys and dispersing it among players who on balance aren’t as good. Second, you already have a “double lead-off”situation with Jeter/Johnson in front of Texeira and A- Rod. Why would you want to take away some of their opportunities to drive in runs and give them to a lesser hitter in Granderson?  (Quote)

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