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Red Sox Best Lineups

Many people worry over what lineups managers should use. Does it really make much a difference? And if it does, how can we measure what that difference is. I don't claim to have the perfect way to measure it but I feel it is better than any of the models currently out there. What I do is use my simulator to find out where players should hit and what players hitting next to each other provide the most synergy. So my methodology is to use my simulator to find out which lineup wins the most games vs RH and LH pitchers. I do this by making the team of interest the "away" team, playing against a "make believe" team whose stats don't change from one sim to the next. In fact no stats (or input projections) change for either team, the only difference from one simulation to the next is the lineup of the team of interest. For player projections, I am using ZIPs projections which are available on Fangraphs. The lineup results will only be as good as the projections. Keep in mind, the results are not intended to match what a certain teams manager is most likely to do during the season. In fact, I know that many of the results will not happen due to manager philosophies and veteran favoritism but these are the most optimal lineups that the simulator spit out. In some cases the top couple of lineups had very small differences in results. The starting nine players were taken from MLBDepthCharts website.

Red Sox 2014 ZIPS Hitting Projections

K% BB% AVE OBP SLG OPS wOBA
Shane Victorino 13.4% 6.6% 0.269 0.331 0.420 0.751 0.331
Dustin Pedroia 11.1% 9.3% 0.285 0.352 0.425 0.777 0.340
David Ortiz 15.5% 12.9% 0.296 0.386 0.552 0.938 0.377
Mike Napoli 30.5% 12.2% 0.241 0.342 0.466 0.808 0.350
Xander Bogaerts 23.6% 8.0% 0.267 0.331 0.429 0.760 0.333
Daniel Nava 20.8% 8.8% 0.257 0.344 0.384 0.728 0.322
Jonny Gomes 26.9% 11.4% 0.236 0.335 0.408 0.743 0.327
Jackie Bradley 23.3% 8.4% 0.245 0.322 0.375 0.697 0.308
Will Middlebrooks 26.0% 5.2% 0.249 0.291 0.425 0.716 0.312
A.J. Pierzynski 15.4% 2.9% 0.267 0.297 0.430 0.727 0.312

Best Lineup (Simulator)

vs RHP vs LHP
1 CF-Jacky Bradley RF-Shane Victorino
2 2B-Dustin Pedroia 2B-Dustin Pedroia
3 DH-David Ortiz SS-Xander Bogaerts
4 1B-Mike Napoli DH-David Ortiz
5 SS-Xander Bogaerts 1B-Mike Napoli
6 RF-Shane Victorino LF-Jonny Gomes
7 LF-Daniel Nava CF-Jackie Bradley
8 C-A.J. Pierzynski 3B-Will Middlebrooks
9 3B-Will Middlebrooks C-A.J. Pierzynski

MLBDepthCharts Projected Lineup Victorino - Nava - Pedroia - Ortiz - Napoli - Bogaerts - Pierzynski - Middlebrooks - Bradley

Platoon of Nava/Gomes

Skinny: There aren't too big of a difference between many of the more popular lineups, so there really isn't much to argue about between the lineup(s) the simulator likes the best and what the Red Sox manager is likely to do. But it is fun to come up with a number one lineup nonetheless. For example the difference between the lineups that the simulator likes the best and the lineup that MLBDepthCharts puts out is 0.3 wins per 162 games vs both RHP and LHP, hardly anything to lose sleep over and when I punch in a really putrid lineup the difference over 162 games is 1.25 wins. Lineup optimization is a much bigger deal in the NL where you have a pitcher you have to work around.

Shane Victorino: Victorino would be a consensus leadoff hitter if he was only able to draw a few more walks. He does have the speed for it but a 6.6% walk rate opens the door for others to be more productive at the top of the order. Against LH pitchers the simulator likes Victorino hitting leadoff, otherwise he provides the most value hitting sixth.

Dustin Pedroia: A multi faceted hitter who brings a little of everything to the table - speed, the ability to get on base and some pop. His skill set is perfect for the second hitter in the lineup for the Red Sox. There is plenty of power behind him to knock him so he does not need to hit third where the MLBDC projected lineups have him hitting. David Ortiz: By far the best hitter on the team and facing RH pitching nobody on the team comes close to putting up the production that Ortiz is capable of. Against RH pitching the simulator likes Ortiz batting third where his production is maximized and batting fourth against LH pitchers.

Mike Napoli: He is the most likely Red Sox hitter to strike out. Power and the ability to take a walk are his big assets and the simulator likes the synergy of Napoli hitting behind Ortiz in any lineup.

Xander Bogaerts: A good young hitter with a nice ZIPS projection. He provides good production to the lineup hitting either immediate in front or behind the Ortiz/Napoli tandem. Against RH pitchers the simulator bats him fifth and against LH pitchers the simulator slots him third as Jonny Gomes is able to fulfill his role of hitting after Ortiz and Napoli.

Jonny Gomes: Like many of the Red Sox hitters, Gomes is good at drawing walks and getting on base. He is not good enough though to start against RH pitchers but against LH pitchers he makes a solid number six hitter for the Red Sox.

Daniel Nava: Not quite good enough to hit at the top of the lineup but still an excellent number seven hitter, which is where the simulator slots him against RH pitchers. The on base percentage is there to hit near the top of the order but a little more speed and pop in his bat would be needed to knock out one of the others from that spot. Slotting Nava in to the second spot in the lineup, pushing Pedroia, Ortiz and Napoli each down one spot in an attempt to extend the lineup turns out to be an unproductive move.

Jackie Bradley: Against RH pitching Bradley nudges out Victorino as the best choice for leadoff but the difference is ever so slight. Against LH pitching Bradley slots in best at seventh as the bottom of the lineup needs to be arranged such that he is not hitting back to back with Pierzynski (both left handed hitters).

Will Middlebrooks: Middlebrooks brings a little bit of power to the end of the lineup. He is poor at drawing walks and strikes out a lot, so those are two areas that need improvement.

A.J. Pierzynski: Awful at drawing walks, Pierzynski seems like the anti-Red Sox player. But like Middlebrooks, he does provide some power at the bottom of the lineup to help knock in any players still on base before the lineup gets turned over.

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