How Significant is Batting Order?

From Matt Klaassen at on March 23:

Most sabermetric analyses of batting order find that the most optimal batting order is worth between five and 15 runs over a typical batting order. From this, it is often concluded that batting order isn’t very important. Is that the correct conclusion?


In recent run environments, five runs is actually closer to one marginal win than to zero. What else would be worth five runs during a season? Imagine that the Chicago White Sox’ projected 2011 right fielder Carlos Quentin gets hurt (it’s a bizarre hypothetical, I know, but try to suspend your belief) and has to miss 40 games, or about 150 plate appearances. Assume those plate appearances go to Mark Teahen. Using their Marcel projected wOBAs (.356 for Quentin, .311 for Teahen), over 150 plate appearances that would cost the White Sox about five runs offensively. Is having Teahen hit for 40 games instead of Quentin significant?

What if a team could gain 10 runs (about one win) by using an optimized rather than their typical batting order? We could pick on Teahen and Quentin again and talk about the difference over 300 plate appearance (about half a season), but let’s look at something else. In 2010, the Kansas City Royals’ stud closer Joakim Soria was worth 2.1 Wins Above Replacement. Among the relievers worth about one win less than Soria according to FanGraphs WAR were the following: Kevin Jepsen (1.1), Jon Rauch (1.1), Nick Masset (1.0), and Kyle Farnsworth (1.0). How significant is the difference in value between those decent relievers and one of the top relievers in the game?

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Originally published: March 23, 2011. Last Updated: March 23, 2011.