Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bonds to Hit Third - Logic Doesn't Add Up

I don't see why Bonds will switch permanently to bat 3rd unless Bochy really convinced him that he can give him his rest earlier since he'll be batting earlier. He also gave the reason for the switch to be that we haven't had a true leadoff guy since Lofton.

Well, that ignores two inconvenient facts. He was switched to 4th earlier that season, swapping with Kent when Shinjo was leading off for us in 2002, and didn't switch back when we got Lofton. And before that, when he batted third, we had Marvin Benard as our leadoff hitter, and no one in their right mind would call him a "true" leadoff hitter.

So for all we know, Mr. "I Don't Believe Half the Things I Say" will start to not believe that batting 3rd is all that Bochy says it is cracked up to be.

My preference has been for batting Roberts, Vizquel, Winn before Bonds, as that puts a lot of speed ahead of him, and a lot of OBP. Plus Winn has a modicum of power, close enough to match what Aurilia might have done there. Ideally, if Klesko is back to his 900 OPS ways, that would be a great lineup: Roberts, Vizquel, Bonds, Klesko, Durham, plus Aurilia and Molina would be a good #6/7 hitter with Winn 8th. That would be a good lineup if all cyclinders are hitting.


  1. The advantages are these 2 things: (1) Guaranteed AB in 1st inning and theoretically more ABs during season, but more importantly (2) batting in the 1st makes it more likely that he bats in the eighth inning rather than the ninth making it easier to remove him from the game for defensive purposes.

  2. Thanks, I thought of tackling that but decided to just go with what I had because I didn't want to take the time to think these two things out.

    But since you brought it up, I was thinking that it would not necessarily mean he bats that much earlier or get more ABs, but I couldn't work through the math in my head quickly enough.

    Here's my try. In 2006, in 161 games, they had 6136 total plate appearances. That's 38 PA per game on average. With 9 hitters in the lineup, that works out to every batter getting 4 PAs, then the leadoff and #2 guy get extra AB's in the 9th. So on average, the #3 hitter normally don't get an extra PA.

    But in life there is a spread, so theoretically you get some extra PA, but it all depends on the drop in frequency as you go from 38 to 39 to 40 PA. And that's only if you play the full 9 innings. Barry does not always play the full 9 and would thus miss out on that extra PA when he is removed before the 9th.

    So the true uptick in extra PA for Bonds are the games where there is 39 PA and not 40 PA, because after 41 PA, he would have gotten the extra PA either way, batting 3rd or 4th. How many games is the difference between 39 PA and 40 PA? 5? 10? Couldn't be that many (it is the difference we are looking at, not the total), though if you are saying every little bit counts, then so be it. Let's call it 5.

    At an average of 4 PA per inning, that means Bonds on average last batted in the 7th inning, 2 innings before. So for him to bat in the 8th vs. the 9th while batting 3rd, there would have to be at least 42 PA, and most probably 43, to push his AB from the 9th to the 8th. Minus 27 outs (ignoring DP and CS), that is 16 times a hitter got on base that you are talking about.

    In 2006, the Giants averaged 12 baserunners (H+BB+HBP) and they averaged 3 BB per game (man that's Bonds alone, isn't it? :^). That means instead of a 9 hit game, it is a 13 hit game. My memory's foggy, but I don't recall a lot of big hit games like that.

    But even then, it becomes a marginal issue like above, the difference between 13 hit games and 14 hit games. Again, probably less than 5, but lets call it 5 for arguments sake.

    So that's 10 extra AB during the season for Bonds.

    However, most lineup construction studies have found there to be no advantage to putting your best hitter in the #3 spot, unlike prevailing baseball theory. I have seen some that say that your best player should bat 2nd. I have also see one that said you bat your best hitter 4th and then your remaining best OBP leadoff, else, again, not much difference to the lineup. So to get Bonds an extra 10 PA, you move him out of a lineup position that some theories say is a critical spot. Doesn't seem worth it to me because that's 120-130 games where he's in a suboptimal batting spot.

    And I don't believe in the Bonds batting in the first inning theory. Even for high OBP hitters, over 40% of the time the 3rd place hitter will come up with nobody on base in the 1st inning and two outs. Do you want Bonds batting in those circumstances?

    Instead, if he bats 4th, only approximately 25% of the time will there have been nobody ahead of him getting on base, in which case he leads off the 2nd inning with no outs. 75% of the time, someone ahead of him would have gotten on base and it would be Bonds up with somebody on base.

    Isn't that what we want, Bonds up with runner(s) on? Batting third, slightly under 60% of the time is there a runner on base. In 120 games, that is 18 more PA where he is batting with runner(s) on base. I prefer that to just getting him more PA.

  3. For some numbers on this check out this link:

    Here the author regressed some key stats against runs to see what the value of OBP and SLG is at each position in the lineup. According to this regression, covering data for the 1989-2002 seasons, SLG is so severely unproductive in the lineup in terms of generating runs, that only the pitchers spot and the 8th hitter are less, and it is essentially the same as the leadoff hitter.

    There is more value in OBP at the #3 spot, but you are reducing the value of the SLG of the hitter 40% by moving him from the 4th spot to the 3rd spot, by this study, while increasing the value of his OBP by 33%. And Bonds SLG is much larger than his OBP (as is most power hitters). By this, the ideal #3 hitter is more an OBP than SLG hitter, in fact, probably one of your worse SLG. By this measure, it would make more sense to bat Roberts, Winn, Vizquel, before Bonds, but Bochy would probably catch hell doing that.

    By the numbers in the regression, it makes more sense to bat Bonds leadoff than it is to bat him 3rd. At least at leadoff his OBP is highly valued, almost double what it was in the 4th spot and still 40% better than the 3rd spot.

    Looking at his study using hits, walks, and extra-base hits, the case for avoiding #3 builds. Here again, getting on base (H and W) is valued more in 3rd than 4th.

    But XBH? As the author noted, SLG is not always a good sign of power because a single ups your SLG, so look at extra base hits (XBH). According to this regression, even at leadoff, XBH is valued more (albeit slightly) than at batting 3rd. It is now barely above 8th as well (1.023 vs. .953).

    This, FYI, shows why Feliz should never hit 3rd, because there OBP is highly valued but SLG/XBH is severely undervalued, and he has no OBP to speak of and his only offensive value is SLG/XBH. He should really bat 6th or 8th. 7th values getting on base vs. XBH higher relative to 6th or 8th, thus Feliz is not ideal for 7th, Winn would be a good one for there (and the talk is that this is where he will bat).

    Areas where XBH is valued is 2nd (which confirms the other study's assertion that batting 2nd is a good spot for your best hitter as gettting on base is highly value there too), 4th (obviously), 5th (slightly more than 2nd) and 6th (slightly less than 2nd).

  4. Having failed math, I won't take on your calculations, Martin. I also think Bonds should bat 2nd. My reasons are that 1) often a starter is not in his rhythm in the first and it is a good opportunity to score, 2) there is a good possibility Bonds comes up with Roberts, and his base stealing threat and general distracting behavior vis-a-vis the pitcher, on base and NO outs, 3) unlike hitting 3d, if Roberts doesn't get on and Bonds is walked, he is on with only one out and still is a potential run 4) conversely, if he hit 3d, and no one got on and he was walked there would be 2 outs and it would be much more difficult to score.
    I have to say, I was in favor of batting him 3d (since they will never bat him 2d), but the study talking about the value of the #3 hitter being OBP and the #4 hole valuing SLG makes me reconsider. I don't understand, intuitively, why that is. The one thing the study does not consider is that batting in front of Bonds makes one a better hitter, which I think bolsters the argument that he is better (more impactful) in the 4 hole.

  5. I posted this once and it got lost, so if it somehow shows up two times, I apologize.
    I posted this question over on Lefty's site, too. But, with Hennessey, KLine, and Sanchez all with ERAs over 10 and TAschner, Correia, and Wilson pretty unimpressive so far, even tho it is only March 10, is it too early to be worrying? I mean, I thought pitchers are supposed to be ahead of hitters at this point.

  6. Never have to apologize for a double or triple, I've been there. 30 times, though, I might have a problem. :^) Glad to see you around too, sorry again for not making myself clear Allfrank.

    Yeah, you always hear that truism about pitchers being ahead of hitters, but there's always other factors coming into play, like wanting to try out new pitches and stuff like that and I would find it hard to believe that every hitter is behind, what with winter league baseball and other ways of staying in hitting shape today.

    I didn't realize that things are that bad right now - been busy with work - but I would offer these two observations. First, small samples always kills any knee-jerk evaluation of how relievers are doing. Luck can play a huge factor. That said, if I were a reliever fighting for a spot, I would be sweating it out right now, particularly Taschner.

    Second, I wouldn't worry too much about the relievers who pretty much got a spot in the roster sewn up, like Hennessey, Kline, Correia. I have faith that they will be OK when the umpire yells "play ball" for the first game.

    I would almost prefer Sanchez not do well and get sent to the minors to start. I want him to be a starter and not have the Giants think about him relieving for them. I know the Giants view him as a starter, so I'm not worried about that, it is just that he seems like a special arm, so I don't want to lose service time having him in the bullpen and sitting, as much as it might help him having a lefty like Righetti to talk with daily and work with him on his other pitches.

    Taschner, I'm rooting for him but he would probably have to no-hit in order to make the roster, so I wouldn't worry about him much, he's probably starting in AAA. He would only make it if other highly valued relievers (Sanchez, Sadler) failed badly.

    Wilson, I would worry about a little but the Giants have been very aggressive about keeping him up here, so he would have to be Russ Ortiz 2005-2006 bad to not make the team, in my opinion.

    Despite the talk about jobs being open and competing for them, I think the bullpen is pretty set right now: Benitez, Kline, Chulk, Hennessey, Correia, and Wilson. I think experience will come through eventually.

    That leaves 1 spot open for Taschner, Sanchez, Sadler, etc. to fight for. If Benitez is traded, we are probably not going to get much for him, most probably someone who is a young reliever who would take his spot in the bullpen.

    As I noted, I haven't been paying close attention, so I might be off on Sadler. But after pitching so well last season and the AFL, I am assuming that the Giants are giving him a good long look this spring. If Wilson struggles, Sadler might become the closer in training instead.

  7. About batting 3rd, I understand the problems of understanding that, particularly if you grew up like I did thinking your best hitter should bat 3rd.

    Here is how I rationalize it. As I noted, 40% of the time, the 3rd batter hits with nobody on base in the first inning, which means that there is already two outs. To keep the inning going, you want a hitter who has a high OBP. Then the following high SLG hitters can drive in the guy who got on base.

    By that same thought, with 40% (or close to 50% if you have two low OBP hitters like the D-gers at the top of the order) of the time with nobody on base, even if the hitter has a high SLG, he doesn't drive in anyone 40% of the time, unless he hits a HR, but that can happen anywhere in the lineup. That SLG is wasted 40%+ of the time (even if a homer, you want homers to come when a runner is on base ideally).

    Does that work for you? I would go further but I really should be working right now....

    I'm a baaad boy.....

  8. Yes, it does help. Actually, it changes my mind. I was never particularly high on bonds hitting third, but I've thought he would be better utilized hitting 2nd. I did think, based on the old maxim, "your best hitter bats 3rd" that he would be better off third. But I see that 4th is the better option (altho I have already forgotten all the reasons).
    A lot of people have opposed the idea because it would move Durham into the #4 slot. I disagree with that. While Durham is not the typical #4 hitter, I think he would b e great there as he hits for high average, with many extra base hits (many doubles) which, I think is very good for an RBI guy.
    I would actually like to see:
    Aurelia/Klesko/Linden, depending on who is hitting 280+
    Omar (maybe)
    Obviously, if Linden were playing in place of Winn, Aurelia/Klesko would slide into the 5 hole.
    I agree with you about Sanchez. I don't really have a rational basis, but I am really excited about him (I guess what he did in AA last year) and want him groomed to reach his pogtential as a starter - which I think requires he pitch a full, longer, ie AAA, season AND perfect his slider.

  9. There is absolutely no way that Bonds should be batting second. That position in the order is for someone with good bat control who doesn't strike out much and who can move a runner along, either by hitting behind him or bunting him over. Although Bonds has good bat control and makes contact, he is an RBI guy and should always be batting in an RBI position, 3rd, 4th or 5th. Th guy in the 2nd position often times has to give himself up and you don't want a hitter like Bonds doing that. You certainly don't want him on base in front of guys that can run better than him and clogging up the base paths. Unfortunately, the Giants don't have a lot of those guys.

  10. When I run the Giants lineup in the Lineup Analyzer on Baseball Musing, using Baseball Forecaster's OBP and SLG, the best lineups for scoring runs invariably have Bonds hitting first.

    The idea, whether batting first or second, is that he gets on base so much, and the probability of scoring a run is that much better when there is no or one out, that while he has the power to drive in guys, he is that much more valuable from the leadoff position in terms of getting the offense going than he would be hitting 3rd or 4th.

    Batting him 2nd would be the compromise there, as long as you can get a leadoff guy who gets on base a lot more and thus make it worthwhile for the times that Bonds does connect for power.

    I have see studies that said that you should bat your best hitter in the #2 spot (hence why, perhaps, the offense did better when Snow was batting 2nd and not as well when Vizquel hits there; that's why I've wanted to bat Vizquel leadoff and Winn 2nd) and others where it was important to get your high OBP person leadoff, but oddly enough, I have not seen any that definitively said you had to have your power guys in the middle of the lineup. However, this is implied, from my reckoning, by the regression terms derived for the lineup based on OBP and SLG, as the high value for SLG is in the middle, 4, 5, 6.

  11. Martin, I think there is another advantage to Bonds' batting 2nd, and that is the later innings when the pitcher comes into play as a hitter. Often the 8th place hitter makes the third out. Then, either you lead of with the pitcher, one out, and if the lead off hitter gets on, you still have only one out and Bonds at the plate, posing a real dilemma to the opposing team: ptich to him or IBB. If the pitcher makes the final out, then you have a first inning all over again. If the lead off hitter makes the final out, you have Bonds leading off, a very good start to an inning.
    I think, with Roberts, Bonds batting second is a particularly good idea. If Roberts makes out, Bonds is hitting with one out. If Roberts gets on, there are two scenarios: 1) Roberts stays at 1b, Bonds is IBB, Roberts to second, raising the possiblity of Roberts stealing third; 2) Roberts steals, Barry gets IBB, still raising possiblity Roberts steals third; either way, you are well on your way to a rally, 2 on, no outs, Durham, Aurelia, Winn, Molina coming to the plate. Assuming Roberts steals 3rd and Bonds stays at first, even a Feliz GIDP scores a run.
    By having Bonds bat second, with his high OBP you get him at first or second with decent hitting RBI guys coming after him (and a long way from your 7 and 8 hitters). So you have far fewer situations where, perhaps, you load the bases, only to have the pitcher or 8th place hitter coming to the plate.



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