Playing With The Line-up Card: Random Ichiro! Thought


It’s been argued here and there about Ichiro and his ability to possibly hit third. It’s been brought up more recently with having a new manager in Eric Wedge. But usually you can read an article written about it somewhere at the beginning of each year and Seattle Sports Insider talked it up last year about this time with the signing of Chone Figgins. Larry Stone of the Seattle times wrote an article on just a little over a week ago about Ichiro hitting third and Geoff Baker, Stone’s counter part, briefly mentioned it during this year’s winter meetings. (*Wave*, Hi Geoff)

I’ve generally not weighed into topics like these because ultimately there is no winner, the likelihood that it ever happens is so small, regardless of the evidence presented, and it generally turns sour because someone takes something personally. It’s just one of those arguments that doesn’t provide much merit in discussing it.

But with those thoughts in mind while playing with Baseball Musings Lineup Analysis I noticed something and just wanted to point it out. Ichiro is batting lead-off in 8 out of the 30 “top” run simulations, 5 times while hitting 3rd and 13 times hitting 5th including three of the very best possible projection. You may or may not have noticed this as well.

The Lineup Analysis tool suggests that the following line-up would be the produce the greatest results.

Obviously this initially is a little odd to think about. But after doing some research, or rather reading much smarter peoples research, you see that in line-up construction the best lead off hitter is the guy with the highest OBP and the your #2 guy should traditionally have a high OBP too.

While this goes against the traditional belief of having a quick guy that can “cause problems on-base” as your lead-off man it’s not completely crazy. Look over at New York and the Yankees really have been doing it for years with Derek Jeter.

There is a very interesting article on Lineup Analysis tool and Lineup construction over at SBN’s Beyond the Boxscore. Which is a great read as well as fangraphs has a couple of pretty good examples of what other teams line-ups could look like if they were “optimized”.

Ultimately, this isn’t to say that Ichiro is best as a leadoff hitter, the three hole hitter, or even as the #5 guy. Just an opportunity to point out that the way we think of traditional line-ups may or may not be 100% correct.

I personally wouldn’t mind seeing the Mariners experiment with a line-up like the one shown above. What’s the worst that could happen, they loose 100 games? But, considering it realistically it’s not something that is going to be proved or disproved over a small sample size so experimenting with it would just as likely just stir up strife and controversy as it would logical discussion.