Monday, December 20, 2010

Hitting by Lineup Slot, 2010

I devoted a whole post to leadoff hitters, whether justified or not, so it's only fair to have a post about hitting by batting order position in general. I certainly consider this piece to be more trivia than sabermetrics, but if nothing else it's fun to find new ways to expose the disaster that was Seattle's offense.

The data in this post was taken from Baseball-Reference. The figures for each team's runs are park-adjusted; BA, OBA, and SLG are raw, and OBA is figured as (H + W)/(AB + W). RC is ERP, including SB and CS, as used in my end of season stat posts. The weights used are constant across lineup positions; there was no attempt to apply specific weights to each position, although they are out there and would certainly make this a little bit more interesting.

NL #3 hitters were the most productive in 2009 as well. American League teams had their best hitters in the cleanup spot on average. In the leadoff piece, I touched on how leadoff hitters as a group were below-average; here we see that it was the AL that produced that result, as junior circuit leadoff men were less productive than any other spots other than #8 and #9. #2 hitters continued to be above-average, which is something of a departure from the long-term trend, and certainly is sabermetrically-approved.

Excluding NL #9 hitters (because of the many PA for pitchers), the two least-productive lineup slots were AL #8 and #9. The NL averaged higher RG at slots 1, 3, 5, 6, and 8.

Next, here are the team leaders in RG at each lineup position. The player listed is the one who appeared in the most games in that spot, which is sometimes misleading. For example, Nelson Cruz appeared in 54 games for Texas at #5 to Josh Hamilton's 52. Cruz had a very good 979 OPS in those appearances, but Hamilton turned in a whopping 1178 and was obviously the man most responsible for Texas' superiority at #5.

The only team with two league-leading positions was Oakland; as we'll see below, they also had two league-trailing positions. Keeping in mind that the AL and NL RG averages were 4.45 and 4.33 respectively, every lineup spot had at least one above-average team performance except for NL #9.

Two A's, three Mariners, two Astros, two Dodgers. What really boggles the mind is that Seattle had a spot (5th) in the heart of the order slugging under .300. Their .297 SLG was the better than only six other lineup spots (excluding NL #9 hitters), the highest of which were the PIT/LAA eights...and the SEA sevens. It was also a bad year to put a guy named Lee in the heart of your order as a NL team.

The two charts that follow display the top ten positions based on runs above average. RAA in this case is only in comparison to the AL or NL average at each position. The practical result of this is that NL #3 slots are being compared to a 6.04 RG compared to 5.20 for NL #4s. That doesn't actually mean that if your NL team got 5.5 out of #3 and #4 that the former were hurting and the latter helping. So these figures are presented for fun more than analysis:

As you'll see with the bottom ten, most of the extreme team positions occurred in key lineup slots--3, 4, 5, 1, etc. This makes sense, since those positions are more likely to be manned by one player and there aren't many teams that can go nine deep, so there's not as much variation at the bottom of the order.

There are those Mariner #5s again. The average AL #5 spot hit .264/.329/.437, 5.0 RG to Seattle's .210/.258/.297, 2.5 RG.

Finally, these charts give each team's ranking within their league in RG at each spot. The top and bottom three in each league are highlighted. While the NL has sixteen teams to the AL's fourteen, three still represents the top and bottom 20% in each circuit (rounded to a whole number--for the AL 20% is actually 2.8, for the NL it's 3.2).

The only teams that did not have even a single spot in the top bottom three were San Francisco and Tampa Bay. The Rays were #4 at spots 1-3, so the top of their order was quite productive relative to the league average.

Seattle was the punchline that keeps giving. Their leadoff hitters (almost all Ichiro) were the most productive in the AL, but eleventh was their best showing at any other slot.

Complete data is available in this spreadsheet.

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