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Who Should Bat Second For The Dodgers?

Earlier today in the comments, we were discussing who should bat second for the 2011 Dodgers, as we have at various times this offseason. I wanted to find out the most optimal Dodger lineup, using the lineup analysis tool at Baseball Musings. For 2011 projections, I used the ZiPS projections from Dan Szymorski at Baseball Think Factory, as well as the Marcel projections, which are available on Tangotiger's website.

2011 Dodger Lineup Projections
Player Pos ZiPS Marcel
Rod Barajas C .245/.285/.433 .235/.280/.402
James Loney 1B .279/.338/.416 .275/.340/.406
Juan Uribe 2B .260/.311/.436 .256/.311/.434
Casey Blake 3B .247/.317/.407 .254/.326/.416
Rafael Furcal SS .276/.341/.402 .277/.344/.416
Jay Gibbons LF .263/.292/.412 .263/.322/.429
Matt Kemp CF .271/.327/.458 .276/.333/.458
Andre Ethier RF .280/.360/.480 .281/.357/.482

For the lineup tool, I used Gibbons and Barajas at left field and catcher, respectively, given that they currently figure to get the most playing time at those positions. For pitchers, I used .081/.132/.088, which was what the Dodger hurlers collectively hit at the plate last season. This isn't by any means a perfect simulation, given all the times pitchers are replaced by a pinch hitter, but for a quick and dirty estimate, that will do.

Some notes using the ZiPS projections:

  • The lineup scored an average of 4.012 runs per game
  • The 30 best lineups all had Ethier batting second
  • Uribe hit anywhere from third to fifth in 27 of the top 30 lineups
  • Furcal was the leadoff man in 25 of the top 30 lineups; the leadoff man in the other five lineups was...Loney
  • Loney batted third three times, cleanup nine times, and fifth three times in the top 30 lineups

Using the Marcel projections:

  • The lineup scored an average of 4.081 runs per game
  • Again, the 30 best lineups had Ethier batting second
  • Furcal (26 times) and Loney (four times) were the leadoff men in the top 30 lineups
  • The third spot in the order in the top 30 lineups was spread between Gibbons (10 times), Uribe (nine times), Blake (seven times), and Kemp (four times)

While these lineup simulations are nice and might reflect optimal strategy, they don't always reflect what will happen in the real world. Earlier today, manager Don Mattingly in his meeting this morning with reporters gave a few lineup hints:

Right now, Mattingly says Matt Kemp is his cleanup hitter.

Also per the Dodgers:

Mattingly sees Casey Blake as someone who could hit second in the lineup during the year, with Ethier third and Kemp fourth.

.Given what Mattingly said today, plus a few minor assumptions, the Dodger lineup has these givens, as it stands right now:

1 Furcal SS
3    Ethier RF
4 Kemp CF
8 Barajas/Navarro C
9 Pitcher

This leaves Loney, Uribe, Blake, and the Gibbons/Thames duo to fill the other four spots. To be honest, there isn't a ton of difference between the four players based on their projections. Uribe and Blake are more power heavy, while Loney projects to have a higher average and on-base percentage than his cohorts.

I would lean toward Loney in the second spot, but I have never been a fan of putting two left-handed hitters back-to-back, especially two who have had trouble hitting southpaws like Ethier (.681 career OPS vs LHP) and Loney (.702 career OPS vs LHP). It makes it too easy in the later innings for an opponent to bring in a LOOGY and make him a LTOGY.

So, given that Ethier and Kemp will likely bat third and fourth, maybe Blake or Uribe should bat in the two hole. Given that I just partially advocated for a player with a .2998 career on-base percentage (Uribe) to bat second for the 2011 Dodgers, I think it's clear that it has been far too long for me without baseball. Bring on the games so I can regain my sanity.