Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hitting by Lineup Position, 2013

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, since there’s no analytical content.

The data in this post was taken from Baseball-Reference. The figures are park-adjusted. 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 have now topped all positions in RG for five years running, and again the AL demonstrated balance between #3 and #4 while NL teams got superior performance out of #3 hitters. The other curiosity that stands out to me is that #3 and #4 were the only lineup slots in which the NL had a higher RG. Throw in the fact that the other most celebrated “key” lineup spot (leadoff) was essentially even between the two leagues, and there’s enough fuel to construct some sort of theory (for which there wouldn’t be enough evidence to proceed logically, as if that’s ever stopped anyone before).

During the playoffs I remarked that it seemed like 2013 had been a year in which the notion of batting one’s best hitter #2 had gained traction; when presented with the actual numbers here, I’d be hard pressed to defend that statement. In addition to the overall RG, if this was the case I’d expect to see an uptick in isolated power for #2 hitters. However, AL #2 hitters collective .137 ISO was better only than that of AL #1, #8, and #9 hitters, and the same was true of the NL’s .130.

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 can be misleading, particularly for the bottom the batting order where there is no fixed regular as in the case of the Dodgers #8 spot, or guys who move around the batting order like Jason Castro who takes the blame for Houston’s #3s):

And the worst:

The domination of bad AL lineup spots by just four teams is something I’ve not seen since I’ve been running this report. It’s not that unusual to have one team with several dead spots (Seattle’s hapless offenses pulled this off), but the White Sox, Astros, and Yankees all had multiple such holes. Chicago boasting four such disasters is an impressive feat. Meanwhile, while Ryan Howard hit better than the Phillies collective cleanup hitters, it’s still amusing to see they were the worst unit in the NL.

The next list is the ten best positions in terms of runs above average relative to average for their particular league spot (so leadoff spots are compared to the league average leadoff performance, etc.):

Baltimore’s #5s were significantly more productive than their #3s or #4s (4.4 and 5.4 RG respectively) thanks to Buck Showalter keeping Chris Davis in that spot for much of the season. The only other #5 spot to outhit both the #3s and #4s was Philadelphia (4.5, 4.1, 5.5 RG respectively) on the backs of the Dominic Brown-led performance which paced NL #5s.

The worst positions:

Chicago’s #9 hitters had a lower RG than three groups of NL #9s (LA, COL, and PHI). They were last among AL lineup slots in BA and OBA and just narrowly missed completing the rate stat sweep as NYA #9s slugged .265 (the only other AL lineup slot with a sub-.300 SLG was SEA #9 at .275). While some passage of time in baseball is sad, like Travis Hafner and Adam Dunn-fronted spots landing on this list, it’s comforting to still have Juan Pierre to kick around.

The last set of charts show each team’s RG rank within their league at each lineup spot. The top three are bolded and the bottom three displayed in red to provide quick visual identification of excellent and poor production:

It so happens that each pennant winner sticks out as having fielded a well-balanced, productive lineup--they ranked #1 and #2 in the majors in R/G, so it’s not a surprise, but other than the very bottom of the St. Louis lineup, there were no weak links in either team’s batting order.

The spreadsheet used to generate these figures is here.


  1. is it possible to link the stats you refer to in your articles by way of URL? im relatively new to the saber use at this high level and would like to easily and quickly understand the the stat im reading about. thanx Mike

  2. Mike,

    Most of the stats should be explained in this post http://walksaber.blogspot.com/2013/11/end-of-season-statistics-2013.html

    If any remain unclear, feel free to ask.


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