Monday, December 12, 2016

Hitting by Lineup Position, 2016

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 analytic 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:

The seven year run of NL #3 hitters as the best position in baseball was snapped, albeit by an insignificant .01 RG by AL #3 hitters. Since Mike Trout’s previous career high in PA out of the #3 spot was 336 in 2015 and he racked up 533 this year, I’m going to give full credit to Trout; as we will see in a moment, the Angels’ #3 hitters were the best single lineup spot in baseball. #2 hitters did not outperform #5 in both circuits as they did last year, just the AL. However, the NL made up for hit by having their leadoff hitters create runs at almost the exact same rate as their #5s.

Next are the team leaders and trailers 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, especially for spots low in the batting order where many players cycle through):

A couple things that stood out to me was St. Louis’ dominance at the bottom of the order and the way in which catchers named Perez managed to sabotage lineup spots for two teams. Apologies to Carlos Beltran (the real culprits for the poor showing of Texas #3 hitters were Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, and Nomar Mazara) and Luis Valbuena (Carlos Gomez and Marwin Gonzalez).

The case of San Diego’s cleanup hitters deserves special attention. Yangervis Solarte was actually pretty good when batting cleanup, as his .289/.346/.485 line in 289 PA compares favorably to the NL average for cleanup hitters. The rest of the Padres who appeared in that spot combined for 399 PA with a dreadful .187/.282/.336 line. Just to give you a quick idea of how bad this is, the 618 OPS would have been the eleventh-worst among any non-NL #9 lineup spot in the majors, leading only 6 AL #9s, 2 #2s, a #7, and the horrible Oakland #2s. It was also worse than the Cardinals’ #9 hitters.

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

And the ten worst:

Joe Mauer himself wasn’t that bad, with a 799 OPS when hitting third. That’s still well-below the AL average, but not bottom ten in RAA bad without help from his friends.

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:

The full spreadsheet is available here.

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