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Optimizing the San Diego Padres lineup

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We try and figure out the batting order that the Padres should be running out there almost every day.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

I thought a fun game would be to construct the ideal San Diego Padres batting lineup, based upon this 2009 article from Beyond the Box Score.

Lead Off

What BTBS says:

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 lead-off hitter is one of the best three hitters on the team, the guy without homerun power. Speed is nice, as this batter will have plenty of chances to run the bases with good hitters behind him.

Fernando Tatis Jr. leads all regular Padres hitters in OBP and has speed to burn. He’s also the guy I want getting the most at-bats on the team, when healthy.

The Two Hole

What BTBS says:

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. Doesn’t sound like someone who should be sacrificing, does it?

I was always a big fan of putting your best hitter in the first or second spot. Instead, I’m now convinced that it should probably be Eric Hosmer, the player with the highest OBP on the team behind Tatis.

The Third Spot

What BTBS says:

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. This is a spot to fill after more important spots are taken care of.

A guy who comes to bat often with two outs and no runners on? That sounds like a perfect spot for Franmil Reyes, king of the solo HR.

Cleanup

What BTBS says:

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.

Manny Machado, come on down!

The Number Five Guy

What BTBS says:

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 homeruns. After positions #1, #2, and #4 are filled, put your next best hitter here, unless he lives and dies with the long ball.

It’s not a perfect fit, but this is an obvious spot for Wil Myers.

Spots Six Through Nine

What BTBS says:

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.

With the idea that a base-stealing threat works best, Manuel Margot is my #6 hitter. Although it’s worth mentioning that Margot has not been much of a base-stealer this season.

Ian Kinsler or Luis Urias is my #7 hitter, as at least one of them is a singles hitter.

Austin Hedges (.615 OPS) or Francisco Mejia (.473 OPS) is my #8 hitter, with the idea being that 7 and 8 can be swapped due to matchups or just general streakiness.

Our final lineup vs. Andy Green’s

  1. Tatis Jr.
  2. Hosmer
  3. Franmil/Renfroe
  4. Machado
  5. Myers
  6. Margot
  7. Kinsler
  8. Hedges/Mejia
  9. pitcher

How does that compare with the lineup most commonly used by Andy Green this season? Let’s find out!

In 35 games, the Padres have rolled our 32 different batting orders (not including the pitcher’s spot)...

  • Ian Kinsler has gotten the most starts in the leadoff spot (14), when he should be batting 7th or 8th.
  • Hosmer has gotten the most starts in the #2 spot (that’s good!), narrowly edging out Franmil Reyes (that’s bad!).
  • Manny Machado has been in the #3 spot for all but 1 game, where Franmil got to hit third. This is a good way to limit Machado’s impact.
  • In the cleanup spot, where the Padres should be batting their best hitter, they have given an equal number of starts to Franmil and Hunter Renfroe.
  • In addition to the #2 spot, Hosmer has also gotten the most starts in the #5 spot. This would be fine if the team had a better overall hitter in both the #2 and #4 spots. They typically do not. Myers has hit #5 second most, but he’s nowhere close to Hosmer in terms of the number of starts he’s gotten here.
  • The most starts in the #6 spot goes to Tatis Jr. This had plenty to do with the kid getting his feet wet, and he should be back in the leadoff spot when he returns from injury. Unfortunately, Margot has only batted 6th once this season.
  • Ian Kinsler leads the way for #7 hitters this season, which means Andy has made some good moves after poor lineup construction early in the season.
  • Austin Hedges, #1 in your heart and #18 in your programs, is most often the Padres’ #8 hitter.

All in all, pretty good! Once Andy moved Tatis to the leadoff spot and Kinsler down to 7th, this became a much better lineup.

It there’s one final move we should be looking for, it’s moving Franmil (or Renfroe, depending on the day) into the #3 spot and moving Machado back to the cleanup spot. Giving the team’s best hitter more chances to drive in runs could lead to more rallies for San Diego.