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Optimizing Order, Part 2: The Blue Jays

In the second of this two-part series on lineup optimization, Noah Sherman takes concepts from The Book and applies them to the 2012 Blue Jays.

Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

If you have not already read part one of this two-part lineup optimization series, you can find it here. I strongly recommend reading part 1, as many of the terms used in part two were explained in part one. In the first of this two-part series, we looked at context when it comes to constructing an ideal lineup. Runners on base, outs, and plate appearances per game were three main contexts for creating run expectancy (RE) values for each offensive event in each batting order position.

Here is the main RE chart again, and remember that RE determines how many runs each event is worth. So, a HR by your 4 hitter is worth 1.472 runs.





































































































Now, as promised, I'll look at optimizing the Blue Jays' lineup.

Starting 9

For the sake of this article, I am going to use the Blue Jays lineup from 2012. I'm not looking to make predictions on who will sign where, so I'll just keep it simple and use this lineup:

C - J.P. Arencibia
1B - Edwin Encarnacion
2B - Kelly Johnson
3B - Brett Lawrie
SS - Yunel Escobar
LF - Rajai Davis
CF - Colby Rasmus
RF - Jose Bautista
DH - Adam Lind

Slash Lines

We'll need each player's slash line in order to find out which spot in the lineup best suits them. For this, I'll be using data from the 2009-2012 seasons. Obviously this will not be possible with all players, as some came in to the league later than 2009. For these players we'll take as much data as possible. We're also not limiting the data to data obtained while playing for the Jays. Therefore someone like Kelly Johnson will have data from both the Blue Jays and the Diamondbacks.

Here are each of the above players' slash lines for up to four seasons ago, in AVG/OBP/SLG/wOBA form. (From Fangraphs)

J.P. Arencibia -- .222/.275/.433/.305
Edwin Encarnacion -- .266/.344/.496/.360
Kelly Johnson -- .233/.323/.375/.308
Brett Lawrie -- .278/.336/.446/.340
Yunel Escobar -- .272/.335/.373/.316
Rajai Davis -- .249/.294/.366/.289
Colby Rasmus -- .213/.273/.384/.284
Jose Bautista -- .264/.390/.557/.404
Adam Lind -- .264/.319/.468/.338


If you recall from the previous article, I pulled this quote from The Book:

"Your three best hitters should bat somewhere in the #1, #2, and #4 slots. Your fourth- and fifth-best hitters should occupy the #3 and #5 slots. The #1 and #2 slots will have players with more walks than those in the #4 and #5 slots. From slot #6 through #9, put the players in descending order of quality."

I'd like to now rank the Blue Jays by wOBA, to get a better idea of who the best players are, 1-9:

Jose Bautista - .404
Edwin Encarnacion - .360
Brett Lawrie - .340
Adam Lind - .338
Yunel Escobar - .316
Kelly Johnson - .308
J.P. Arencibia - .305
Rajai Davis - .289
Colby Rasmus - .284

A couple initial notes:

  1. Players change. Four years is a long time, and Adam Lind is most likely no longer the fourth best player on the Blue Jays;
  2. The stat wOBA is a great judge of a player's ability, but not the be-all end-all;
  3. We still need to look at other factors for assembling an optimized lineup.

To summarize from last time, in terms of what you want in each batting order position:

  1. High OBP (lots of walks), roughly equal in wOBA to the 2 and 4 hitters
  2. Roughly equal in wOBA to the 1 hitter, but with more power
  3. Worse than the 2 and 4 hitters, should be a good HR hitter, roughly equal in wOBA to the 5 hitter
  4. Best overall hitter on the team, high SLG, roughly equal in wOBA to the 1 and 2 hitters
  5. Roughly equal in wOBA to the 3 hitter but with a higher OBP
  6. Worse than the above 5 hitters
  7. Worse than the above 6 hitters
  8. Worse than the above 7 hitters
  9. Worse than the above 8 hitters


Now that we have all this data, let's analyze the Blue Jays above and see where they fit in:

J.P. Arencibia - High SLG, low OBP
Edwin Encarnacion - High SLG, High OBP, great HR hitter
Kelly Johnson - Lots of walks despite below-average OBP, average power
Brett Lawrie - Average walk rate (decent OBP), average power
Yunel Escobar - Good OBP, not much power
Rajai Davis - Poor OBP, not a lot of walks, not much power at all
Colby Rasmus - Poor OBP, not a lot of walks, some power
Jose Bautista - Great OBP, great SLG, great HR hitter
Adam Lind - Below-average OBP, decent SLG

Based on the above observations, coupled with the ‘best' hitters in terms of wOBA, I think we can cobble together an optimized Blue Jays lineup. I'll share some reasoning after the lineup.

Brett Lawrie
Edwin Encarnacion
Adam Lind
Jose Bautista
Yunel Escobar
Kelly Johnson
J.P. Arencibia
Rajai Davis
Colby Rasmus

Yes, this lineup does look pretty terrible right now. Just remember that this is based off three years of data.

  • It just doesn't seem possible to bat Encarnacion 2nd, so Lawrie, being the 3rd best hitter on the team in terms of wOBA will bat first. He has a somewhat respectable OBP, and while not truly leadoff caliber, he'll have to do.
  • Encarnacion, being the 2nd best hitter, has to go in the 2 hole due to his power as well as the fact that he is not quite the leadoff hitter you'd like
  • Adam Lind, being the 4th best hitter (!) on the team in this context bats 3rd
  • Bautista, being the best hitter bats 4th
  • Yunel Escobar fits in the 5 hole, as he is the 5th best hitter on the team and has a higher OBP than the 3 hitter Adam Lind
  • 6 through 9 descend in wOBA

If I were to actually construct a lineup, based on watching games as well as using this data - but with more emphasis on recent data - it would look more like this:

Brett Lawrie
Edwin Encarnacion
Colby Rasmus
Jose Bautista
Yunel Escobar
Kelly Johnson
J.P. Arencibia
Adam Lind
Rajai Davis

There you have it, your 2012 Blue Jays optimized lineup. What do you think? Feel free to post your lineups below. Also, if you would like, please change the players to those whom you think will be in the opening day lineup in 2013.