The Nats cannot score runs and something MUST be done about it. Baseball is marathon, not a sprint, and one must always guard against jumping to conclusions based on the dreaded SSS – Small Sample Size- but at some point enough is enough. The season is almost a third over and the team is break-even because they are terrible at scoring runs. Injuries are surely to blame (it’s not ALL Espinosa’s fault) but so what? Last year’s version had injuries too, but also had a bench step up and fill holes until reinforcements came. That’s not happening this year and I think it’s time to shake things up.
Everyone loves to play the Batting Order Game and I’m no different. (Ed. Note: We realize this comes on the heels of David Huzzard’s very good article suggesting hitting Kurt Suzuki second.) In fact, I’m probably the worst. Batting order optimization is another point of contention between the old and new schools of baseball though. Again, the new school has won me over. Tom Tango’s The Book breaks down some shortcomings of traditional thinking and lays out a new strategy for getting the most out of players. Beyond the Boxscore’s Sky Kalkman has a great breakdown of The Book‘s ideas. Sky sums up Tango’s principles as such:
“Another way to look at things is to order the batting slots by the leveraged value of the out. In plain English (sort of), we want to know how costly making an out is by each lineup position, based on the base-out situations they most often find themselves in, and then weighted by how often each lineup spot comes to the plate. Here’s how the lineup spots rank in the importance of avoiding outs:
#1, #4, #2, #5, #3, #6, #7, #8, #9
So, you want your best three hitters to hit in the #1, #4, and #2 spots. Distribute them so OBP is higher in the order and SLG is lower. Then place your fourth and fifth best hitters, with the #5 spot usually seeing the better hitter, unless he’s a high-homerun guy. Then place your four remaining hitters in decreasing order of overall hitting ability, with basestealers ahead of singles hitters. Finally, stop talking like the lineup is a make-or-break decision. Tango goes to great effort to try to figure out how damaging an out is in every spot and then reverse engineers a lineup from there.”
An important little nugget is that the batting order is not “a make-or-break decision”. There’s only so much it can do, but it can do something and times like this call for a Kitchen Sink approach. Using these theories as a basis, here are the changes I would make if Mike Rizzo suddenly fell ill (temporarily of course) and I had to step in and run the ship, fresh off a night’s sleep at a Holiday Inn Express.