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More on Lineup Positioning

Returning to the topic of lineup position, which we covered a few weeks ago by ranking all team's lineup position production by OPS, let's take a look now at the averages for each spot in the lineup.

Sometime over the next week or so we'll look at how the Phillies' production from each lineup spot compares, but for now, let's just look at the averages from all MLB teams over the course of the 2005 season.

First, here's a chart of the average production for each lineup spot.

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Lineup # AB PA R H HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
1 683 760 103 191 13 64 0.280 0.342 0.406 0.748
2 667 742 96 181 14 71 0.271 0.331 0.403 0.733
3 637 724 97 179 27 100 0.281 0.359 0.476 0.835
4 623 708 96 172 30 106 0.277 0.355 0.485 0.840
5 619 692 86 169 25 95 0.272 0.340 0.455 0.794
6 608 674 77 162 21 83 0.267 0.330 0.436 0.766
7 591 655 69 150 15 72 0.254 0.317 0.392 0.709
8 570 637 65 143 14 68 0.250 0.316 0.387 0.702
9 547 617 54 119 9 50 0.218 0.270 0.315 0.586

Predictably, runs decrease as you move down in the lineup and RBIs spike in the middle. Also predictable but quite important in evaluating the right spot in the lineup for a particular player is that for each move down in the lineup, a team sacrifices about 18 plate appearances for that player over the course of the season.

Two graphs are informative when it comes to showing trends in production throughout the lineup spots. The first graphs OPS by lineup spot, and the second breaks each spot into batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

The trend in these charts shows that conventional lineup wisdom is alive and well in 2005. The best hitters are batting 3-4-5 with the worst hitters buried at 7-8-9.

The one area that seems to invite a change is in switching the 6 and 2 hitter, if for no reason other than the number of plate appearances lost to the better hitter over the course of a full season. Putting the more productive batter sixth instead of second costs teams about 68 plate appearances from that more productive batter. The greater slugging skills and about equal on-base skills out of the 6-hole hitter (compared to the 2-hole hitter) could be useful at the top of the lineup to give teams a better shot at moving the leadoff hitter around the bases another 68 times throughout the year.