Monday, January 04, 2010

Hitting by Lineup Slot, 2009

This piece has next to no analysis--it is mostly a presentation of data that you could easily get elsewhere. But since I devote an entire post each year to the most productive leadoff slots in the majors, I've decided to also make one post dealing with the other eight lineup positions. You wouldn't want the #7 hitters to feel neglected, now would you?

First, let's take a look at the average production out of each lineup slot, broken down by league. All data has been culled from Baseball-Reference. An important technical note upfront: I have chosen to use the standard ERP formula to estimate runs created for all lineup positions. In reality, of course, the appropriate linear weight values vary by context, one of which is most certainly batting order position. Folks like Tango Tiger have done a great deal of research on LW by batting order, and while the differences in event coefficients are not monumental, it would be more accurate and more interesting to use them. For this post, though, the weights are the same for each position:

NL #3 hitters blow every other position out of the water, boasting stars like Pujols, Utley, Ramirez, Braun, Gonzalez, etc. amongst their ranks. Not surprising is the fact that NL #9 hitters are the least productive, and that amongst spots manned (nearly, thanks to Tony LaRussa) exclusively by real hitters, the #8 batters from both leaguers bring up the rear.

Making conclusions from one year of data of this type is dangerous, but I found it interesting that #2 hitters in both leagues out-produced the league average. Historically, #2 hitters have often been below average in OPS+, although I should point out that the figures here do include runs produced through stolen base attempts. The top producing AL lineup slot was the cleanup hitters, although the #3 and #5 spots were essentially as productive.

Let's next take a look at the top ranking team (in RG) for each lineup slot. The player listed is the most common batter in that spot, by games started:

First, I should acknowledge that the most common batter can be misleading, as in the case of Tampa's #6 hitters. Pat Burrell did appear in the most games in that spot (47), but his OPS was just 764. The team was actually propelled to a strong showing by the performances of Ben Zobrist (26 G, 1147 OPS), Willy Aybar (28, 999) and Gabe Gross (15, 919), as well as productive eight game stints by Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, and Jason Bartlett.

The Yankees were often cited as having a "deep" lineup, and being the most productive at three spots backs up those claims.

And the trailers:

How bad were the Kansas City cleanup hitters? So bad that only two slots (excluding NL #9s) produced lower RGs: Seattle #7 and Detroit #9. They were last in BA, second last in OBA, and only Seattle #7, San Diego #8, and their teammates who batted ninth compiled a lower SLG.

The Seattle #7s were an embarrassment in their own right--they were a point behind Colorado's #9 hitters in OBA (although park adjustments would mercifully rescue them if applied).

I also figured runs above average versus the league average for the lineup slot (AL and NL separate, no park adjustments). These figures are available in the spreadsheet at the end of the post. I need to emphasize that they compare to the league average for 2009 only, and so they are subject to the players actually batting in particular spots. That's a clumsy way of saying don't take them too seriously. AL #3 and #4 hitters each created 5.5 runs per game, but the NL breakdown was 6.4/5.9. If a given NL team's third hitters and cleanup hitters created 6.2 runs, then the #3s would be ranked below average and the #4s above average. But does the fact that Pujols, Ramirez, Utley, and others bat third rather than fourth really change the value of another team's #3 hitters? No.

Anyway, caveats aside, here were the ten highest RAA figures from individual slots:

Don't worry: David Wright was more responsible for the Mets' #5 hitters than Jeff Francoeur, but Francoeur appeared in more games.

The bottom ten:

Boston and Colorado had the most above-average lineup slots, with eight (Red Sox leadoff and Rockies #7 were the below-average performers). Detroit (#4 the exception), Oakland (#9), Pittsburgh (#1), and San Diego (#9) all had eight below-average slots.

There are a lot of other ways you could look at this data; I'll leave you to it if you want, as I've run out of interesting things to say:


  1. I tried my hand at the LW per slot using the weights Tango supplies in The Book, just for fun. I generated wOBA values and then to RAA.

    Slot, Team, RAA

    1. NYA, +37
    2. PHI, +30
    3. STL, +48
    4. MIL, +43
    5. LAA, +40
    6. TB, +28
    7. NYA, +31
    8. LAA, +19
    9. CLE, +32

    Virtually identical. It's not as accurate as I'd like it to be, since the weights aren't fine-tuned...but I thought it'd be interesting regardless.

    Here's the spread (with your RAA right next to it):

  2. Interesting, thanks.

    It's not a surprise that the results are similar, which is why I didn't bother to use the slot-specific weights, but I definitely felt compelled to point out that Tango and others have looked at LW by lineup slot.

    Recognizing (as you pointed out) that the weights aren't fine-tuned, here are the positions which the slot-specific weights benefited the most (wRAS-RAA):

    TB9, CHN3, BOS9, CLE9, NYA9

    The AL #9s obviously benefit from being compared to a baseline that includes NL pitches.

    The ones most negatively affected are all NL #9s, of course.


Comments are moderated, so there will be a lag between your post and it actually appearing. I reserve the right to reject any comment for any reason.