Great Lakes Royals

May 20, 2010 11:29 PM

Constructing a Better Royals Lineup

Lineup construction.  The philosophy of lineup construction excellent for getting managers in hot water for their perceived shortcomings, while more or less useless for trying to add more runs or wins to the ledger.

In a real world, it's critical that players simply be comfortable in their roles, which is way more important than the hypothetical maximization of run creation.

Still, it's my contention that the Royals could be a lot more creative with their lineup construction, get players to be more comfortable in their roles, and produce more runs, specifically earlier in the game.  The Royals have precious few players who can work the count, take walks, and run the bases, which is why I think that their attempts in the last two years to "find" a leadoff man have hurt them so much.

This isn't designed to be an open letter to the Royals imploring them to take this suggestion promptly and seriously, rather, it's meant to be an idea for trying to squeeze the most out of the player that the Royals are stuck with.

1st Position -- LF Alex Gordon

I get to bend the rules just a bit here, and bring Gordon back up from Omaha, with him OPSing above 1200 and all, and not only get him plate appearances, but get him the most plate appearances in a role where his ability to be an offensive threat in so many different ways can be truly appreciated.  After the trade of Mark Teahen, Gordon is easily the best leadoff hitter that's near the majors right now for the Royals.

2nd Position -- 1B Billy Butler

Billy's an ideal second hitter in this lineup because he offers alternate handedness from the leadoff man Gordon, enough patience at the plate to allow Gordon to run the bases aggressively, and at will.  In fact, having an on-base guy ahead of Butler may even foster more patience at the plate for the 24 year old.   Butler is using the gaps again to his advantage, and becomes the centerpiece of a lineup which he's already leading.

3rd Position -- CF Scott Podsednik

Also: Rick Ankiel or Mitch Maier could hit here.  The idea, after Butler, is to go back to the left-handed side, but not to waste any power that could potentially be more valuable later in the lineup.  The Royals have a lot of hackers, some with good bat control, others with less, and the team could benefit from putting another table setter behind Butler instead of going into the power part of the lineup right away.  That kind of makes Ankiel a poor fit here, but I don't think Ankiel should be starting in CF anyway.  Putting Pods in the third spot could take away some of the terrible outs he makes by trying to "act" like a table-setter, without actually wasting his (relative) on base ability.

4th Position -- 2B Mike Aviles

I really, really hate Yunieski Betancourt's defense with a passion, and Mike Aviles strikes me as a much, much better defensive shortstop.  However hacktastic his bat might be, he does, however, bring a legitimate ability to use the power alleys.  That's nothing quite like what Mike Aviles can do.  Aviles doesn't take walks either, mind you, but his bat is so quick that it really doesn't matter.  He ends up as a 850-920 OPS guy at the end of the day with a walk rate hovering dangerously close to 4% which is astounding.  There is no better clean-up hitter on the Royals roster than Aviles, as of today.

5th Position -- 3B Alberto Callaspo

The guy is on an all-star type pace, and at this point, he'd be right in the middle of any batting order in the majors.  That includes this one.

6th Position -- DH Kila Ka'aihue

I stressed just a little bit over which Royals DH I should use, Kila or Guillen, based mostly on handedness issues and trying to ignore the obvious future benefits with getting Kila more plate appearances in constructing a good line-up.  I ultimately sided with plate discipline over Guillen's ability to put bad pitches in the seats.  After all, Kila might have that ability as well.  Who would know?

7th Position -- RF David DeJesus

After Gordon, DeJesus would be the obvious choice for a leadoff man in this group, mostly because he's done it with success in the past.  In this lineup, he's clearly not the featured option, but the Royals tend to run into a lack of professional hitters down around this part of the lineup.  DeJesus, who probably would have been my fourth hitter in this exercise just last year, brings quality at bats to the bottom of the order.  That's the goal here.

8th Position -- SS Yuniesky Betancourt

Truthfully, there are many options for the Royals to get rid of Betancourt's glove at SS, and his offense isn't exactly an endearing quality, but the truth is that he's probably a deserving starter on this Royals team.  An Aviles-Getz MI improves the defense immensely, as does Aviles-Bloomquist, but the best offensive combo probably involves Betancourt at SS.  Sadly.

9th Position -- C Jason Kendall

I made a specific attempt to surround Alex Gordon with right handed hitters at the top of the lineup to try to cut down on the amount of lefties he faces.


After constructing this lineup fairly subjectively, I plugged it into the lineup constructor over at baseball musings.  The "suggested" lineups look a lot like the above lineup, except because I input the ZiPS projections for the rest of the season as my slugging and OBP figures, the systems seem to prefer Kila in the #1 spot over Gordon (not unianimously), and are pretty confident that I'm over-batting Mike Aviles (who, it should be pointed out, is only projected at a .766 OPS).  Maybe most shockingly, the numbers seem to agree with me that Scott Podsednik is the best option for no. 3 hitter for the Royals.

I like this lineup for other reasons other than it's ability to create 4.9 runs/game (which doesn't improve the run production much).  I think it can work better at bats out of Gordon, and Podsednik, and Aviles without hurting Butler, or Callaspo, or DeJesus.  Ultimately, that is what matters the most: generating more quality at bats out of a lineup without even one player who either on bases 400, or slugs 500.

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