Optimizing the 2015 Diamondbacks Lineup: Against RHP


The 2015 season is almost here, and I can’t be more excited. Let’s be honest 2014 was a disaster full of injuries and underperformance, but it’s a new season, and when Spring Training gets underway, every team feels like they can win the World Series. That’s what I love about this time of year!

If the Diamondbacks are going to win more games in 2015, they obviously have to stay healthy, but to put it simply, they have to score more runs. A few weeks ago, I talked about how optimizing a batting order using advanced stats can help teams score more, and today I would like to examine what an optimized lineup would look for the Dbacks against righties and lefties.

The idea of an optimized lineup was created by Tom Tango, Michael Licthman, and Andy Dolphin in “The Book.” 

If the Diamondbacks want to score more, here is how their lineup should look with analysis why.

Against RHP:

1. A.J. Pollock-CF

A.J. Pollock is a lock to play center-field this season, and as long as he can stay healthy, he should breakout and take his game to the next level. He has superstar potential written all over him.

The traditional way of writing a lineup card says the manager should put his fastest guy in the leadoff spot. OBP is important, and power is nice, but speed comes first.

The optimized lineup says that getting on base is king, and that makes perfect sense. Only 36% of a leadoff hitters plate appearances are with men on base, so it’s the leadoff guys job to get on base, so the middle of the lineup can do damage. You can’t steal a base unless you get on base first.

According to FanGraphs 2014 Diamondbacks statistics, Pollock had the second highest OBP against righties at .358 behind Paul Goldschmidt, and the third highest wOBA at .364 behind Goldschmidt and David Peralta.

He also has a ton of speed, and can wreck havoc on the base-paths. Pollock is the ideal leadoff hitter.

2. Paul Goldschmidt-1B

The traditional way of filling out a lineup card says that the #2 hitter is not one of the teams best hitters, and is no more than a slap hitter that can move the leadoff man up. The Book says that the #2 hitter should be the teams best overall hitter.

The #2 hitter comes to the plate with runners on base about 44% of the time, so the #2 guy is way more important than the #3 hitter and should have really good splits with RISP.

Goldschmidt is that type of hitter. With RISP last season he had a wRC+ of 168, and with men on base he had a wRC+ of 171 both far above league average. So your probably asking why isn’t he hitting cleanup? Well, #2 hitters and #4 hitters are equally important, but the #2 hitter gets on average more plate appearances.

The Angels scored the most runs in the American League last season, and they had their best overall hitter Mike Trout in the #2 hole.

3. Jake Lamb-2B

I think Jake Lamb is going to have to be more versatile when it comes to playing in the infield. The acquisition of Yasmany Tomas, and the talk that he could play 3B, means he will almost have to. Lamb struggles against left-handers and Tomas is projected to. If Lamb can learn how to play 2B, that would create a lot of options. If not I don’t know the future of him on this club.

The reason why I would have Lamb hit third is to balance the lineup out a little bit. The Dbacks are going to be right-handed heavy in 2015, so having a lefty hit after two righties is a good idea. The book says that the #3 hitter comes up to bat more frequently with no runners on base. This is a great spot to put Lamb.

4. Yasmany Tomas-3B

The Diamondbacks want Tomas to play 3B, and so this post will assume that he will man the hot corner. Tomas is the ideal cleanup hitter against righties. He is expected to have a high slugging percentage, and hit 30 HR’s a season with a low OBP.

The optimized lineup says that the cleanup hitter should be the teams best power bat, and against RHP, that is what Tomas will probably be.

5. David Peralta-LF/RF

Here is one thing I know: Peralta will not be batting against left-handers. His splits are so drastic. In 2014 he had a 38 wRC+ against lefties compared with a 132 wRC+ against righties.

The book says that the no.5 hitter should be the next best hitter after the #1, #2, and #4 hitters unless he lives and dies with the long ball. Peralta had the second highest slugging percentage on the team against righties, so it makes sense to put him in the 5 hole.

The five hole hitter is a wannabe cleanup hitter that can get on base, and drive in runs, and against RHP Peralta can do that.

Spots 6-9: The Book says that the #6-#9 hitters should go in order of OBP. Therefore 6-9 hitters should decrease in wOBA because 6 hitters will see more plate appearances than the 7 hitter etc.

6. Ender Inciarte-LF/RF

Inciarte has the makings of a leadoff hitter, but Pollock is better suited for that role. He still has plenty of speed, and can get on base so he is perfect in the 6 hole. His wOBA against righties last year was .315 which is better than Owings and Hill.

7. Chris Owings-SS

Owings is going to have to learn how to hit righties better, but I think he will get better as he goes along. He will be playing SS pretty much everyday. His wOBA of .292 is lower than Inciarte

8. Tuffy Gosewisch-C

Tuffy simply isn’t a very good hitter, and that is why he is in the number eight spot.

9. Pitcher

I’m sticking with the traditional way for the 9 spot, because the pitcher has the lowest wOBA, and should receive the lowest amount of plate appearances.

As you can see I don’t have Aaron Hill or Mark Trumbo in the lineup because they struggled against righties. This was really hard to construct because the Dbacks are going to struggle against righties all season.