Face Forward, Please

With the first month of the season complete, I thought it might be fun to review how each team’s lineup has performed so far. Specifically, I will look at each position in each team’s batting order, because you sometimes learn more about a team’s offense this way. Hopefully, you’ll see what I mean.

I’m going to use Gross Production Average (GPA) as the metric of comparison. GPA is very similar to OPS, except better; and its scale is very similar to batting average’s, so you can intuitively understand it. However, I haven’t corrected GPA for ballpark impact.

First of all, here’s how the average GPA of each position in the lineup stacks up in both leagues:

         1      2      3      4      5      6      7      8      9     Avg
AL    .267   .230   .259   .244   .251   .246   .213   .212   .225    .250
NL    .244   .236   .266   .263   .253   .269   .227   .230   .147    .251
Dif   .023  -.006  -.007  -.019  -.002  -.024  -.015  -.017   .077    .000

As you can see, the average GPA is the same in both leagues (.250 and .251), but the National League is getting better production from every spot in the lineup except the first and last — and the difference in the ninth spot is obviously due to the Designated Hitter.

In the AL, the most productive lineup positions have been leadoff (two words: Brian Roberts) and the number three hitter. The seventh, eighth and ninth spots definitely bring up the rear in more ways than one.

In the NL, there’s more of a normal “bell curve,” with the most productive lineup spots being in the middle of the order — the third through the sixth spots. The most productive lineup position in either league is the National League’s sixth.

Now let’s take it a step beyond simple averages and look at the average spread of performance for every lineup position. Here is a “box whisker” graph of the GPA of each lineup position, for both leagues combined:

image

The blue line in middle of each red box is the median GPA; the red boxes represent the 50th percentiles around the median, and the lines represent the upper and lower quartiles. The dots (which I’ve labeled for specific teams) are the outliers — the players who are having really great or lousy years compared to other batters in their lineup position. For instance…

  • The outlier in the leadoff position is the Orioles’ Brian Roberts, who is off to a phenomenal start.
  • The two outliers in the second position are a couple of shortstops: Colorado’s Clint Barmes and Pittsburgh’s Jack Wilson. I’ll let you guess which one is which.
  • That’s the Dodgers’ Jeff Kent in the cleanup spot. So far, Kent must be the best free agent signing of the offseason.
  • The A’s are in the bottom quartile of many lineup positions, but their number six batters (Eric Byrnes et al) are noticeably worse than their sixth-position peers.

Most interesting to me, the fifth position has exhibited the widest range of production so far. At the top of the charts are the Reds’ Adam Dunn, the Blue Jays’ Shea Hillenbrand and the Tigers’ Dmitri Young and Rondell White. The batters on the bottom include Jermaine Dye of the White Sox, the Pirates (Daryle Ward and friends) and, at the bottom of the chart, the Angels’ Steve Finley.

Let’s look at the entire lineups of some specific teams. First of all, which team has the most consistent lineup, top to bottom? That would be the one in Arlington, Texas, your Texas Rangers:

             1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9
TEX       .264  .266  .257  .266  .259  .241  .269  .220  .252

On the other hand, the award for the best bell-shaped curve goes to the Minnesota Twins. If it weren’t for a slight dip in the fifth spot, the Twins would have a perfect shape to their graph. Obviously, Torii Hunter is just not paying enough attention to this sort of thing.

             1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9
MIN       .223  .240  .284  .320  .301  .350  .213  .186  .179

The Dudley Doright Riding His Horse Backwards Award goes to the Mets, who have Jose Reyes at the top of the lineup and Victor Diaz at the bottom. (Question: is Jose Reyes this generation’s Shawon Dunston?)

             1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9
NYM       .235  .231  .269  .264  .280  .286  .287  .330  .171

…with an honorable mention to the Padres, whose Sean Burroughs is batting .200 in the leadoff position and .375 in the eighth position:

             1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9
SDP       .226  .242  .258  .261  .254  .274  .313  .267  .109

The Duncan Imperial Yo Yo Award goes to the St. Louis Cardinals, thanks to the fantastically even spacing of David Eckstein, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Mark Grudzielanek. Grudzielanek has batted .407 in the seventh position vs. .285 everywhere else.

             1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9
STL       .296  .263  .317  .234  .309  .225  .307  .134  .139

Several teams are just the opposite of the Rangers, almost forming a singularity at one particular position of the space-time-lineup continuum. The Weak Force Award goes to the Seattle Mariners (thanks to Ichiro, Richie Sexson and Raul Ibanez, and the Strong Force Award belongs to the Atlanta Braves (one Chipper Jones).

             1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9
SEA       .301  .222  .215  .290  .219  .297  .189  .186  .173
ATL       .214  .250  .369  .194  .239  .264  .143  .287  .149

And here is the obligatory comparison between the Red Sox and the Yankees:

             1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9
BOS       .297  .280  .327  .289  .265  .269  .253  .244  .224
NYY       .302  .245  .308  .240  .308  .278  .248  .247  .277

Finally, here is the lineup position leaderboard, listing the top three and bottom three teams at each lineup position. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions:

First      GPA     Second      GPA     Third      GPA     Cleanup   GPA
BAL       .381     COL        .364     ATL       .369     LAD      .372
WAS       .339     CHC        .315     DET       .336     CHC      .339
NYY       .302     DET        .295     LAA       .334     MIN      .320

SFG       .222     LAA        .194     SEA       .215     TOR      .218
CIN       .219     ARI        .192     CIN       .211     KC       .200
ATL       .214     PIT        .103     OAK       .187     ATL      .194



Fifth      GPA     Sixth       GPA     Seventh    GPA     Eighth    GPA
CIN       .404     CIN        .353     SDP       .313     NYM      .330
TOR       .337     MIN        .350     STL       .307     TOR      .316
DET       .328     ARI        .323     TBD       .306     PIT      .295

CHW       .182     CHW        .213     DET       .170     MIL      .165
PIT       .177     CLE        .199     PIT       .160     CLE      .141
LAA       .155     OAK        .155     ATL       .143     STL      .134



Ninth (AL) GPA     Ninth (NL)  GPA
TBD       .312     HOU        .218
NYY       .277     SFG        .211
CLE       .272     ARI        .210

BOS       .224     MIL        .113
MIN       .179     SDP        .109
SEA       .173     PHI        .092

Hopefully, you learned a little something about your favorite team from this exercise. I’ll review leadoff positions again later in the year.

References & Resources
Lineup position data is available at Stats Fantasy Advantage. Here’s a link to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ page, from which you can link to any other team.

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