So, Grover finally got around to adjusting the line-up. Vidro moves up to 2nd, Johjima goes to 3rd, Beltre to 7th, with the rest staying the same. Predictably, it didn’t matter much, as the team still couldn’t hit Matt DeSalvo. In general, batting orders are pretty overrated, and where a guy hits in the line-up isn’t as important as whether or not he should be in the line-up to begin with.
However, it’s one of those small things that can make a difference over the course of the year if the line-up is optimized correctly. For every spot in the batting order you move down, you lose approximately 18 at-bats a year. The #1 guy gets 18 more at-bats than the #2 guy, the #2 gets 18 more at-bats than the #3 guy, etc… So, by being aggressive about getting your best hitters into the top of your batting line-up, you can create some extra runs for your team by having good hitters get extra at-bats in lieu of your bad hitters.
Yesterday’s line-up, in that regard, isn’t much better than the standard line-up we’ve seen all year. Essentially, it gives Johjima at-bats in lieu of Beltre, which is a lateral move. Getting Vidro out of the #3 hole is a good start, but moving him up to #2 only serves to give him even more at-bats throughout the year, which isn’t really the goal the team should have in mind.
What would an optimal line-up with this roster look like? I’m glad you asked.
Vs LHP: Ichiro-Vidro-Beltre-Sexson-Guillen-Johjima-Ibanez-Lopez-Betancourt
Vs RHP: Ichiro-Ibanez-Beltre-Sexson-Guillen-Broussard-Johjima-Lopez-Betancourt
Ibanez’s power hasn’t turned the calendar to 2007 yet, but it’s still hard to argue that Jose Vidro is a better hitter against RHP than Ibanez is. Despite all the lauding for Vidro, Ibanez sees more pitches per plate appearance and has a recent history of higher walk rates, so he’s a good enough fit for the #2 slot on this offense. As an added benefit, managers who still don’t realize that Ichiro can beat the tar out of LHPs will be tempted to use their LH relievers to face Ichiro-Ibanez back to back later in games. Advantage, Ichiro.
Broussard is the only Mariner on the roster right now with any kind of significant LH power. The line-up needs a guy swinging from the left side in the middle of the order who can drive the ball, and he’s a better hitter than Vidro anyways.
And yes, I’m advocating leaving Sexson in the middle of the order. He’s not this bad, and I don’t believe there’s anything to moving a guy down in the order to “get him going”. Sexson’s a notorious second half hitter who improves dramatically as the weather gets warmer, and his low average simply isn’t sustainable given his other skills. He’ll end the year up near .240 to .250, and I don’t see any point in overreacting to his slow start by pretending that there’s a better guy on the roster to hit clean-up. It’s a line-up of flawed hitters, and in an ideal world, he wouldn’t have to hit clean-up, but on this roster, he does.
Now, of course, we won’t see this kind of dramatic L/R line-up changes from Grover, who is in love with doing the same thing every single day, and we won’t see more Broussard because Vidro’s getting .312. But if the M’s are serious about optimizing their offense to get as many runs out of this hacktastic group as they can, that’s my suggestion.