Earlier today, the press box at Progressive Field was treated to a late April Fool’s joke in the form of a faulty lineup card that suggested the Toronto Blue Jays had decided to rearrange their batting order to a degree. The most notable of the changes was found in the placement of their two best players: Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie.

This is what we were led to believe the lineup for Opening Day will look like:

  1. Yunel Escobar
  2. Kelly Johnson
  3. Brett Lawrie
  4. Jose Bautista
  5. Adam Lind
  6. Edwin Encarnacion
  7. Eric Thames
  8. Colby Rasmus
  9. J.P. Arencibia

When in actuality, it will look like this:

  1. Yunel Escobar
  2. Kelly Johnson
  3. Jose Bautista
  4. Adam Lind
  5. Edwin Encarnacion
  6. Brett Lawrie
  7. Eric Thames
  8. Colby Rasmus
  9. J.P. Arencibia

Last season, Jose Bautista had 633 plate appearances hitting third in the order and absolutely zero hitting anywhere else. Many managers using conventional wisdom will bat their best player third, but for those who have looked a bit closer at the actual numbers, the practice is maddening.

For years, the thinking has been that a good lineup is put together like this: a speedster who won’t clog the bases leads off, a player who rarely swings and misses bats second, the team’s best hitter fills the third spot, a power hitter goes in the cleanup spot, someone who can knock in runs hits fifth, and the rest of the lineup is filled with the best hitters that the team has placed in descending order.

But as Jason Hanselman points out in his post on regressed platoon splits at Dock Of The Rays, “conventional wisdom [is] often cliché and muttered without thought.” Hanselman goes on to mention the much quoted sabermetrician Tom Tango, who suggests that the actual differences between a team’s worst possible lineup order and the best possible isn’t really that great.  But for a team in the American League East that will have to eke out as many runs as possible in order to compete against the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays, the Blue Jays should be looking for an optimal lineup each and every time out.

According to Tango’s The Book, a better way of looking at lineup construction is to consider that the first, second and fourth spot are the most important because they’re the most likely hitters to come up to bat most often; with less than two outs, and therefore with the highest run expectancy. The third in the order is actually most likely to come up to the plate with none on and two out. And therefore, a batter who hits for power and little else, let’s say someone in the Adam Lind mould or even Edwin Encarnacion, is best suited to bat third.

Despite what the numbers suggest, Blue Jays manager John Farrell has let it be known that he wants his best hitter batting third.

Of course, Lott’s tweet came before the mistake was realized, and so along with that, my compliments to Farrell in the paragraph below seem quickly dated and far from accurate.

While it’s refreshing to see Farrell attach himself to a stupid old way of thinking that would push him toward placing younger players lower in the order, Lawrie is probably better suited to hitting second, not third. In my opinion, a better lineup versus right handed pitching would look something like this:

  1. Yunel Escobar
  2. Brett Lawrie
  3. Edwin Encarnacion
  4. Jose Bautista
  5. Adam Lind
  6. Kelly Johnson
  7. Colby Rasmus
  8. Eric Thames
  9. J.P. Arencibia

The one factor I might consider for today’s lineup would be that Justin Masterson is pitching. Masterson tends to throw a lot of fastballs, and Adam Lind, more than any other Blue Jays player tends to do well against fastballs. Perhaps, that might warrant a higher placement in the order in this instance.

When asked to comment, this is all Cito Gaston would do to express his thoughts on our lineup projections:

Comments (51)

  1. The Blue Jays’ official Twitter account disputes your lineup prediction.

  2. I love “disapproving Cito”.

  3. Good news: This post is now obsolete.

    https://twitter.com/#!/BlueJays/status/187922652667719681

    ^Official line-up is official.

  4. Aaaand… never mind.

  5. Okay, so the lineup was wrong – but why was that lineup card ever printed in the first place? What a clusterfuck.

    • My bet’s that it was intentional – sort of a trial balloon to see what the reaction would be if Lawrie was moved in front of Bautista should he continue hitting like a maniac. (No, you’re a conspiracy theorist).

  6. @Wilnerness590
    RT @BlueJays: 100% Correct Line-up Escobar6, Johnson4, Bautista9, Lind3, Encarnacion0, Lawrie5, Thames7, Arencibia2, Rasmus8. Romero1

  7. not cool…lawrie should be 3rd

  8. Parkes, you have still have Lawrie in the wrong spot (5th) in your most recent lineup…don’t be screwing over my boy Easy E…

  9. That was a lot of work and analysis all for naught.

  10. Whenever batting order comes up, I refer to this excellent (if slightly dated) research paper (from some guy at Harvard! And about the Blue Jays, no less!) on the topic that makes a fairly good point of stating that the ideal batting order is actually straight-out decreasing by OPS, based on the seemingly obvious logic that the start of the batting order gets more at-bats in a season and therefore you get the most benefit from having your best hitter at the top, and that the age-old idea of stacking hitter types in order to manufacture runs (you need the on-base guy followed by the average guy followed by the production guy and then the cleanup power guy, and you get 4 runs!) sounds good on paper but rarely pans out when it comes to in-game scenarios
    http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~mbodell/battingOrder2001.html

    Based on this model, Jose Bautista should bat first. Whenever I say this, people look at me like I advocated for Justin Bieber to be in the Rock&Roll Hall Of Fame.
    “But… but… you need a speedy, feisty base-stealing leadoff guy to bat first!”
    Why, though?
    “Because… that’s the way it’s always been, IDIOT!”

    So I try not to bring it up anymore.

    • If the name of the game was to get on base with nobody on then that would be correct. The key is to get on base when other people are already on base and force them home though.

      • The name of the game is extending the game by not getting outs. By putting two guys with a .350 OBP ahead of a guy with a .450 OBP, you’re giving more chances to players who get out 65% of the time than the guy who gets out 55% of the time. That means more innings (and games) end prematurely. It’s kind of hard to explain what I’m getting at, and it’s completely unrealistic to ask a power-hitting superstar to bat first and fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but I think the paper above does a good job

        • Another reason why it makes sense is Jose doesn’t seem to get very many home runs in the first inning. He uses that first at-bat to size up the starter so he can mash the next time around. If he batted first or second, he could actually come in to score in the first inning with Lawrie hitting third.

  11. It’s sad that managers will never give up on conventional wisdom. It has been statistically proven time and again that your best hitters should bat earlier to maximize potential at bats. Lawrie should be hitting second all season — although it has been shown that the 2-hole is actually the best place to put your best guy, but baby steps!

  12. Problem with your lineup is you have all the lefties batting back-to-back. You gotta split them up, a little.

  13. That 2nd lineup would run into trouble later in the game against teams with good lefty specialists.

  14. Pretty simple if you look at it like this..

    starting the game..if jose bats third…he needs one out of two players to reach to bat with someone on base…..500 obp in other words

    if he bast fourth..he needs 1/3 palyers to get on to bat with at least one guy on base.333 obp

  15. Anyone know if MLB audio broadcasts Jays games in Canada or are they blacked out? Anywhere else you can listen to the games online that people know of?

    • Actually today’s game is MLB.TV’s free game of the day. Enjoy.

    • If “WayOutWest” = Vancouver, you can listen to them on the radio.

      http://toronto.bluejays.mlb.com/tor/schedule/radio_network.jsp

      • Sadly, that didn’t appear to be the case–the radio station chose to broadcast the masters golf tournament instead…I’d love to hear about legal internet radio feeds here in vancouver…

    • They will be blacked out but if you work for a company that does not block traffic from MLB.com and also has there servers located in US (I am in Ontario) then you get the best of both worlds. I plan on watching the first hour or so at work today then driving home between innings (about a 5min trip). BOOYA!!

      Jays game is a free game to view on mlb.tv today.

  16. Why on earth would you want a power guy up with none on and two outs?

  17. Have to laugh once again at Stoeten. He has Cito shaking his head at the lineup card. While it’s intended as a cheap, Stoeten-like, shot, it turns out that Cito is right and it’s Stoeten, once again, left playing the fool.

  18. So Parkes advocates for a lineup that starts with 4 RH hitters followed by 4 LH hitters. I’ll keep this in mind next time I see him taking shots at Cito.

    Another thing to consider, is the use of a LH hitter in the 2 spot. I’m certainly of the belief that the most important thing for the leadoff hitter is OBP. Then, with a runner on first, the gap between 1st and 2nd base is bigger, which gives a LH hitter a better chance to pull the ball into the hole or employ the hit and run. Last season, Farrell constantly used Patterson, Thames, or other LH hitters in the 2 hole. Expect the same this year (Johnson, Thames, Rasmus, Snider).

    • Yep, that lineup of four consecutive lefties followed by four consecutive righties is just stupid and cannot be defended. What a fail.

  19. That Cito gif is NEVER going to get old! “The Book” is probably the best baseball purchase I’ve made, such a great read!

  20. It’s the start of the season guys, relax on the line-up shit. As we start to settle in to the 2012 season the line-ups will change and I can see Lawrie moving up, Im more worried about our pitching then our line up after Romero and Morrow its ??? As to how well our remaining starters will do,

  21. Speaking of stupid people and racists, Mike Wilner was on the radio today in Ottawa spouting bullshit about Travis Snider. Wilner’s bullshit claimed that “In 2009, Snider was the hottest hitter in baseball for the first two weeks. Then, in the next two weeks the Blue Jays faced 8 left handers and Snider was sat down 8 games in 2 weeks and was never the same.”

    Racist idiots like Wilner never really care about the facts. On April 16 Snider was indeed hitting well, but he sure wasn’t sat out 8 games in 2 weeks. Instead, here’s what Snider did over the next two weeks 1 for 5, 0 for 3, 1 for 4, 0 for 1, 1 for 3, 3 for 6, 0 for 1, 1 for 4, 0 for 3, 1 for 5, 0 for 4, 1 for 4, 0 for 5 In total, he went 10/48 while his OPS creeped down 300 points in two weeks.

    It would be silly in the first place to claim that someone was ‘ruined’ by two weeks of at bats, but Wilner makes up bullshit to support a bullshit claim.

    Guys like Stoeten, Parkes and Wilner try to build a crowd among the teenies by pretending they’re smarter than someone else. It turns out not only are they not smarter, but they choose an African-American to make their false claim against. Coincidence? I think not. I think it’s a cornerstone of being racist pigs.

    • uummm, huh?

    • What are you talking about?

    • agreed. your presentation is a bit inflammatory, but the gist remains sound.

      these days it’s almost like wilner, stoeten et all have become the enemy of the game and take more delight from excoriating others than they do from providing actual, factual insight and reporting. oh well.

      basically they’re on the same sad level as guys like eric smith and matt devlin. which is to say, godawful.

      • You’re right. It was too inflammatory. I’m tired of the cheap shots taken by these guys against an African-American, especially when they are based on falsehoods. I withdraw the ‘racist pig’ claim, and will simply leave it to the readers to figure out why false claims are being made against an African-American, consistently to play to the crowd.

    • Snider defender = racist? Not seeing the connection here

  22. 7-8-9, if they reach potential, have the ability to give pitchers some headaches.

  23. thank god you don’t get to fill out the jays’ lineup cards.

    sigh.

    bloggers =/= managers.

  24. I think Barfield should bat 2nd with Moseby and Bell at the 3rd and 4th slot.

    • I think JB is suggesting they’re racists for criticizing Cito… which is exactly what Cito would say.

      Anybody seen JB and Cito in the same fried chicken joint at the same time?

    • Give your head a shake! Moseby/Bell/Barfield. You can’t have the AL homerun champ in the 2 hole!

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