FanPost

Optimizing the 2013 Chicago White Sox Line-up

After being shut out for the ninth time this season, Manager Robin Ventura decided to mix things up on Sunday by writing down this order in his line up card.

1. Alexei Ramirez

2. Gordon Beckham

3. Alex Rios

4. Jeff Keppinger

5. Josh Phegley

6. Dayan Viciedo

7. Brent Morel

8. Casper Wells

9. Blake Tekotte

You would be hard pressed to find a line up posted this MLB season that could have a worse 4-9 hitters. Shockingly, this line up was infinitly better than Saturday's, partly because of Phegley's first home run.

I guess I'm down to two thoughts when it comes to the White Sox offensive woes:

Thought One: Robin has no idea how to create a line up card that can produce game in and game out.

Thought Two: It's not Robin's fault - I mean look at what he has to work with!

It got me thinking - what should this line up look like? Should be totally determined by Sabermetrics? Should it be a hybrid of new and old school styles? Or should Robin pick out of a hat before each game?

I then came across The Book. Written by the trio of Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman, and Andrew Dolphin. In a one sentence summary - this piece is about "playing the percentages" and putting your team in the best position possible to win games.

During my Google search, I then came across this gem from Beyond The Box Score's Seth Kalkman.

Kalkman does an outstanding job of breaking down the value of each hitter in a line up, and the differences between the book of old school vs. the new way of thinking.

I took these two resources as a reference to help construct what I think would truly be the best possible line up that Ventura can send out.

Lead Off

From Kalkman:

The Book says OBP is king. The lead-off hitter comes to bat only 36% of the time with a runner on base, versus 44% of the time for the next lowest spot in the lineup, so why waste homeruns? The lead-off hitter also comes to the plate the most times per game, so why give away outs? As for speed, stealing bases is most valuable in front of singles hitters, and since the top of the order is going to be full of power hitters, they're not as important.

The current league average for Lead Off OBP is .331.

The White Sox Lead Off OBP is .302.

Alejandro De Aza has been Robin's man at lead-off since 2012. In his first season of play, Alejandro had a OBP clip of .349, which was above MLB's average of .344. In 2013 that number has dropped to .315, while he has already hit a career high in home runs with 10 (previous: 9, in 2012).

Not sure if that was De Aza's goal coming to the season was to demonstrate more power, but already passed the half way mark its pretty clear that maybe De Aza is not the most suited to bat lead-off.

So using my references, I came to the conclusion that if OBP is king, that stealing bases is not the most valuable in this situation, and I should put in someone that won't hit a lot of home runs my lead-off hitter should be:

1. Gordon Beckham

Current OBP of .367 (small sample size - only 38 games), and it has been documented that his hand injury might have zapped his home run power. His BB% is not attractive (3.5%) but based on the current talent that is on this roster, I feel his tangibles fit best to bat lead off.

#2 Hitter

From Kalkman:

The Books says the #2 hitter comes to bat in situations about as important as the #3 hitter, but more often. That means the #2 hitter should be better than the #3 guy, and one of the best three hitters overall. And since he bats with the bases empty more often than the hitters behind him, he should be a high-OBP player.

Batting behind Beckham should be

2. Alex Rios.

I've posted Rios numbers in other threads concerning his production no runners on vs. runners in scoring position.

Here are the updated numbers:

No Runners on

.284/.322/.789

Runners in Scoring Position

.176/.296/.517

Diving into the numbers further, I found these gems.

Runner on First Base

.317/.359/.926

Runner on Second Base

.120/.353/.473

Runner on Third Base

.444/.500/.944

With Beckham being the lead-off hitter, its more likely that Rios would come up to bat with a runner on first which is a situation he has excelled this season.

As far as Rios's career numbers - this is a well below average season for him. His career numbers:

No Runners On

.276/.319/.771

Runners on First Base

.284/.334/.788

Runners in Scoring Position

.277/.327/.744

In his career Rios has batted in each slot of the line up. Despite sample sizes, having batted in the #2 slot Rios in 66 GS has a slash line of .333/.364/.940.

#3 Hitter

From Kalkman:

The Book says the #3 hitter comes to the plate with, on average, fewer runners on base than the #4 or #5 hitters. So why focus on putting a guy who can knock in runs in the #3 spot, when the two spots after him can benefit from it more? Surprisingly, because he comes to bat so often with two outs and no runners on base, the #3 hitter isn't nearly as important as we think.

If you follow this thinking and play the percentages, you want a #3 hitter who excels with 2 outs and no one on base.

The Sox don't have anyone that fits that description.

Player

BA

OPS

Viciedo

.231

.558

Dunn

.184

.706

Gillaspie

.171

.400

De Aza

.069

.251

Ramirez

.220

.495

Flowers

.212

.551

Keppinger

.171.

.415

These numbers are bad. Which is fine, because if the #3 hitter is not all that important, then why not slide in someone who has had some success on a lower level.

3. Josh Phegley

I get the argument that what he did in Triple AAA Charlotte means squat in Quadruple AAAA Chicago. However, there is no one on this roster who makes a good #3 hitter (put that on the shopping list, Hahn). If this season is lost, might as well see if Phegley is as good as advertised.

You don't want to put Dunn in the #3 hole because he's just not that good with no one on.

Adam Dunn

No Runners on

.196/.305/.789

Runners in Scoring Position

.242/.339/.802

It's not ideal, extremely controversial, and quite frankly I have no idea who to put in this slot.

Clean Up

From Kalkman:

The Book says the #4 hitter comes to bat in the most important situations out of all nine spots, but is equal in importance to the #2 hole once you consider the #2 guy receives more plate appearances. The cleanup hitter is the best hitter on the team with power.

4. Adam Dunn

10 of his 23 home runs have come with a runner on. In 44 at bats with multiple runners on, Dunn has 12 hits (.272 BA), 4 XBH (2 Doubles/2 HR) and 19 RBI's.

Wannabe Clean Up Hitter

One of my favorite lines from Kalkman comes with the number #5 hitter:

The old-school book says the number five guy is a wannabe cleanup hitter.

The Book says the #5 guy can provide more value than the #3 guy with singles, doubles, triples, and walks, and avoiding outs, although the #3 guy holds an advantage with home runs. After positions #1, #2, and #4 are filled, put your next best hitter here, unless he lives and dies with the long ball.

Mixing old school and new school, I think this is a more suitable place for

5. Alejandro De Aza.

Compared to Dunn, De Aza has 34 AB's with multiple runners on. In this situation, De Aza has 11 hits (.324 BA), 3 XBH (All Doubles), 22 RBI.

That's right - De Aza has been the best performer with runners on for the Sox this season. You can make the case for De Aza as the #3 hitter, but he's better with no runners on with 1 out, than he is with 2 outs.

No Runners on 1 out

.208/.250/.514

No Runners on 2 out

.069/.182/.251

And if the scenario plays out that De Aza leads off in the inning, you can take advantage of his second best skill set - leading off. Again, second best skill set. Putting De Aza in a scenario to have runners on puts him, and the team, in a much better position to score runs.

#6 through 9 hitters

Per Kalkman

The old-school book says the rest of the lineup should be written in based on decreasing talent. Hitting ninth is an insult.

The Book basically agrees, with a caveat. Stolen bases are most valuable ahead of high-contact singles hitters, who are more likely to hit at the bottom of the lineup. So a base-stealing threat who doesn't deserve a spot higher in the lineup is optimized in the #6 hole, followed by the singles hitters.

Based on that thinking, the #6 hitter should be

6. Alexei Ramirez.

You maybe asking, why is Alexei the #2 hitter right now. Well, just so happens Alexei is batting a slash line of .299/.333/.703 with runners on.

It's already been noted that the power is gone, but he does lead the team in Stolen Bases, and using that speed in front of a contact hitter, say #7 Jeff Keppinger could create some interesting hit and run plays.

With that thinking, I feel that a batter's performance with runners on heavily outweighs vs. no one on.

That's why I wrap up the line up with

8. Connor Gillaspie, and #9 Dayan Viciedo.

Conor Gillaspie

No Runners

.253/.301/.685

Runners in Scoring Position

.282/.360/.822

Dayan Viciedo

No Runners

.241/.283/.648

Runners in Scoring Position

.255/.283/.687

Gillaspie could be a dark horse #3 hitter for how while he does with runners on but I think he could act as a the second #3 hitter in the 8th slot behind a speedster (Ramirez) and a contact guy (Keppinger).

Tank is having a rough year. In no way a player with the power he has should be batting 9th. If Konerko were healthy, or if there was just a better OF option, Tank would have difficulty finding playing time right now. Yes, even on this roster and this year.

Interesting numbers for Tank:

0 Outs

.149/.190/.460

1 Out

.273/.301/.717

2 Outs

.276/.313/.707

I cannot fathom how a hitter can be so bad with no outs. So perhaps putting him in a scenario where he wouldn't lead off as much, and behind the likes of Ramirez, Keppinger, and Gillaspie, Tank would be in a position to perform better.

I'm curious to hear what everyone thinks. With the impending trade deadline, and already looking to the Winter Meetings, its pretty clear where the holes are with this team offensively. The more I think about it, I agree with my original two thoughts about Ventura

1) This roster makes it VERY DIFFICULT to make a productive line up

but

2) Ventura needs help making up the line up card.

Never should we see Keppinger bat 4th, again.

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