Ball: Jim Leyland’s sabermetric lineup

From SABR member Andrew Ball at Beyond the Box Score on October 17, 2013:

It’s not often that my twitter feed explodes with support for a decision made by Tigers‘ skipper Jim Leyland, but that’s exactly what happened Wednesday when Detroit’s lineup for game 4 of the ALCS was announced. With Austin Jackson struggling mightily, Leyland moved the speedster down to the eighth hole and bumped the rest of his hitters up in the order. The lineup looked drastically different than the one that took the field in game three, but while many players had been moved around, the big news was that likely American League MVP Miguel Cabrera would hit second in the lineup.


For those of you wondering why there was so much applause at the move, it boils down to the principles of lineup construction originally outlined in The Book by Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andy Dolphin. If you haven’t read their work, you really should, but for now we can give you the cliff notes thanks to former BtBS writer Sky Kalkman’s 2009 article on optimizing big league lineups. From Sky’s article, we get this passage on the two-hole:

The old-school book says to put a bat-control guy here. Not a great hitter, but someone who can move the lead-off hitter over for one of the next two hitters to drive in.

The Book says the #2 hitter comes to bat in situations about as important as the #3 hitter, but more often. That means the #2 hitter should be better than the #3 guy, and one of the best three hitters overall. And since he bats with the bases empty more often than the hitters behind him, he should be a high-OBP player. Doesn’t sound like someone who should be sacrificing, does it?

Essentially, the smart money says that a team’s best hitter should bat second, and not third like the conventional wisdom says. And with a .455 wOBA and a 192 wRC+ during the regular season, Miguel Cabrera fits the bill of the Tigers’ best hitter.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: October 17, 2013. Last Updated: October 17, 2013.