Purgatory Online

Thursday, February 24, 2005

There's a remarkably insight-free preview of the 2005 Angels at Scout.com today. I mention it simply because it's the umpteenth time I've seen a projected lineup that puts Guerrero in the wrong damn place in the order:
1. Figgins/Kennedy
2. Erstad
3. Guerrero
4. Anderson
5. Finley
6. Cabrera
7. McPherson
8. Molina
9. Quinlan
To be fair, this is likely an approximation of the lineup that will be used. Some juggling could happen, of course - Cabrera might be dropped down, McPherson, Molina, or Quinlan could move up - but the top five are pretty much a given, at least to start.

But here's the thing: why is Guerrero batting third? Ordinarily, the theory is that you put your best hitter in the three-spot, and protect him with your second-best hitter in the four spot so that he sees better pitches. The problem is that Guerrero is such a notorious free-swinger that he's going to see bad pitches anyway, so there's no point at all in trying to protect him in the lineup. In fact, his walk rate was actually higher in the 3-spot last year (41/489) than it was in the 4-spot (11/175). So instead, I'd argue that it would be worth trying to use Guerrero to protect Anderson, who would almost certainly benefit, since he's much more selective at the plate. This also puts more potential runners on base for Guerrero to drive in.

I see two potential objections:
1. If Figgins, Erstad, and Anderson go out in order, Guerrero leads off the second inning. Guerrero leading off an inning is bad, because there's no chance for him to drive in runs. Okay, but it's even worse if he's hitting third, because if we're assuming that Figgins and Erstad are out, that means Guerrero has no chance to drive in anyone (except himself), and there's a strong possibility a base hit will be wasted before he can be driven in. If he leads off the second, he has an excellent chance to start a rally.

2. Dropping Guerrero a spot in the lineup decreases his plate appearances. Possibly true; I remember reading someone (maybe King Kaufman) right before the 2002 World Series suggesting that Barry Bonds should bat leadoff to maximize his at-bats. Last year, Angels #3 hitters had 714 AB+BBs, while the #4 hitters had 703. But that strikes me as an awfully small gap; even the slightest edge in terms of giving Anderson more pitches to hit or having more base runners on when Guerrero is at the plate would be enough to offset.
I think it's worth a shot, anyway.