August 22, 2011

What I Was Talking About

Having read the book, I can't figure out how they made a movie out of it. But they did.

You have to figure that a guy like me, who has spent hours making what are called "speed figs" (speed figures) for thoroughbreds just to find an undervalued horse to bet on would easily fall into the system. And I did. An argument can be made that, yeah Oakland has low payrolls and they've had some great teams since Beane took over but where's the championships? - and that would be a good argument. Except the goal was to have a low payroll and still be a winner. Which they did.

Which they did... until recently; because now people are stealing their ideas - which they thought were baseball blasphemy when it got started. So now it's harder. And the thing is, the story is still going on because there really is a Billy Beane (and yes, ladies, he is "movie star" looking) and he really does run the Oakland A's and he still has computer geeks on the payroll. We call them "number guys" in horseracing. Aherrrrm...

August 09, 2011


Have to go to work in exactly one hour. The monk part of the week begins again. I veg on my 4 day weekends. No that's not true - but time seems to get away from me. It's like a mini-vacation every week but the problem is that the way things are going I'm finding more and more comfort in shutting everything out. It's an interesting head I live in.

Lately I've been thinking about batting orders. You know, because, that's important. But there seems to be a science to setting out a baseball lineup and lately I've been thinking about it. a lot. What can I say?

Relative to how you set your batting order, there are a handful of different theories about how to set a baseball lineup but the most prevalent is the one that goes...

1. Best speed. Low strikeouts.
2. Hit and run guy, some power OK, low strikeouts.
3. Your best all-around hitter. Hits to all fields.
4. Your Home Run guy. RBI's.
5. Second best Home Run guy. Usually a lower batting avg. than #4, but power.
6. Usually lower avg. and power but reliable under pressure.
7. Lesser version of #6
8. Most often slowest, a lot of times the Catcher to spare his legs. You get what you get.
9. In the National League, this is 99.999% the Pitcher unless the manager is Tony LaRussa. In the American League there's two lines of thought - this is either your worst hitter or your "second lead off man" with good speed but hits for a lower avg. than your #1 guy.

And this is pretty much how it has been since time immemorial. And you don't screw with the old heads in baseball, they know best and they know everything and they know it all much better than you, especially if high school was as advanced a level you ended at.

What I've been thinking, though, is that this is bullshit. The standard baseball lineup only really makes sense if every inning you start with the number 1 guy again. Because by the second or third inning the guy who will be batting first for you isn't your best speed and may be your slowest guy. So unless you start every inning from the top THE FIRST INNING IS THE ONLY POINT OF THE GAME THE LINEUP REALLY MATTERS.

And as the game progresses the lineup becomes less consequential. At any given inning any player may be asked to start things off, and the #1 lead-off man could really only lead-off once the entire game. Worse than that his speed is often negated by the conditions of the game. For example if the #8 batter gets on base and the #9 batter makes an out and fails to advance him, your best speed guy, should he get on base, can only go as far and as fast as the guy ahead of him. A single by the #2 batter in this case may only send your slow Catcher to 3rd, forcing your speed guy to stop at 2nd.

Anyway the point being is that as the game goes on you never know where in the lineup the next turn starts.


So what you're doing is giving more at-bats to good players, but not your best players. Objective reason will tell you that the #1 batter will come to the plate more times than anyone else. So to put a speed guy / singles hitter in that spot immediately cuts down your chances for getting the most out of your talent. If you put your best hitter in the lead-off spot, regardless of his speed, he will bat more times than anyone else during the course of the season, which improves your overall offense immediately.

There, that's a half hour of baseball. I've got to make my lunch. See how interesting it is in my head? Yeah right.

I'm going to do more on this. But for now, we've established rule #1. Your best hitter (the guy you usually place #3) should be your lead-off man. The whole idea is getting on base and putting pressure on the other team.

More to come...