Carleton: Do stars and scrubs lineups actually work?

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on December 23, 2014:

Is it better for a team to have a lineup with a couple of star hitters in it (and several not-so-good-ones), or to have nine guys who are all good-but-not-great? This is the classic balance vs. stars-and-scrubs debate. It’s a nice debate, but studying the answer has proved a bit of a challenge. We can study actual teams and see how balanced their rosters are then study their results. The problem there is that there aren’t many teams who have uniformly good players, but there have been a few who have uniformly mediocre ones. Teams that have a great diversity in their roster probably have a few good players. It’s a tough problem to get around by studying real life.

The idea behind a stars and scrubs lineup is that teams can do the obvious and bat the good players at the top of the lineup, thus giving the good hitters more chances to hit. But then, it also means that you have a few awful hitters at the bottom, likely bunched together. Surely, that’s going to take the wind out of a team’s sails? Three easy outs in a row equals the end of an inning and you only get nine of them.

The general consensus, to date, has been that a stars-and-scrubs approach gives a team a slight advantage. I decided to take a proper look.

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Originally published: December 23, 2014. Last Updated: December 23, 2014.