06/04/2004: Going to second guess the manager?
Go ahead, that's your right as a baseball fan. But next time you do, you may want to consider that there may well be a reason why he's managing a pro ball club, and you're just a cubicle monkey (or whatever it is you do to keep body and soul together).
Josh Schulz over at Go Cardinals found a Monte Carlo baseball simulation at SourceForge, and decided to play with it. Basically, what he did was run various lineups through the simulation for 10,000 seasons worth of data, and compare the number of runs scored by those lineups to the number of runs scored in 10,000 seasons by Tony LaRussa's basic (or "default") lineup1:
1. Tony Womack
2. Ray Lankford
3. Albert Pujols
4. Scott Rolen
5. Jim Edmonds
6. Edgar Renteria
7. Reggie Sanders
8. Mike Matheny
9. Matt Morris [Josh is using MattyMo for a "generic" pitcher for this analysis]
I want to funnel hits to Josh's site, so if you're interested in the experiment (which means, if you're even a marginal baseball fan), go follow the link above (the one starting "run various lineups...") and see the results for yourself. The executive summary: after extensive tweaking of various lineups. Josh could only find one lineup that scores marginally more runs per season in 10,000 seasons than LaRussa's basic lineup, and that's a minor variation of the basic lineup which shifts Matheny into the number 9 slot and the pitcher into the number 8 slot. Interestingly enough, this serves as a data point for a theory of lineup management I've read about that advocates just that. The increase in scoring which results from batting a non-pitcher in the last spot is probably due to the fact that the non-pitcher will get on base a bit more than the pitcher, which means that the good non-power batters that usually fill the number 1 and 2 spots will have a chance to drive the position player batting last in for a run more often than they would if the pitcher batted last. So that makes sense.
If you're really interested (i.e., you're a stathead or stathead wannabe), definitely follow the link to Josh's post and check the comments. Josh was challenged by one of his readers to come up with the least optimum (the "pessimum"?) batting order he could. I won't list it here (go look for yourself); suffice it to say it looks definitively weird. What's interesting, though, is that the run differential per season between the optimum and pessimum lineups was only 25 runs. Which really makes you wonder, sometimes, what a manager is really paid to do.2
I actually composed this post this morning, and for some reason (probably me screwing up) it never got posted to the blog. I don't know what bothers me more--the fact that I screwed it up such that it didn't post, or the fact that I didn't notice that it didn't post for a number of hours after. Incipient senility is a bitch.
1 Actually, LaRussa has been juggling the lineup (from what I've seen, though I could be wrong) so much that it might be incorrect to talk about his "default" lineup. But, IIRC, this is the lineup that LaRussa was using at the beginning of the season, so it's fair enough to call it the basic lineup. As basic a lineup as we have.
2 Leonard Koppet, in his excellent The New Thinking Fan's Guide To Baseball, has the best answer to this question that I've read:
What does a manager really do?
For a living.
Len on 06.04.04 @ 07:32 PM CST