Bill Center, who covers the Padres for the San Diego Union Tribune, released his prediction or the 2012 starting lineup. Here’s what he came up with:
Cameron Maybin leading off, Orlando Hudson or Jason Bartlett batting second, Chase Headley batting third, Jesus Guzman cleaning up, Yonder Alonso batting fifth, Nick Hundley in the six hole, Will Venable or Chris Denorfia batting seventh, and Orlando Hudson or Jason Bartlett pulling up the rear. Bill Center’s idea of the lineup is as good as anyone’s, but we’ll see if we can improve upon it a bit.
I’m not sure I like Maybin in a lead-off role. Here’s how he fared batting in various spots in the order:
As you can see, he played almost an equal number of games batting third, fifth or sixth. He found himself leading off most of the time with 39 starts. Of spots in the lineup where he started at least 20 games, Maybin had the most success (based on a combination of batting average, OBP, and slugging, but not just OPS alone) batting third. In the five hole, Maybin hit .279/.339/.346 with an OPS of .685. He clubbed 5 doubles, racked up 29 hits, and knocked in 9 runs. His BAbip was a ridiculous .358 while hitting in the three spot, so perhaps much of his success at this particular spot in the lineup was luck. However, he didn’t see a BAbip under .300 at any spot in the lineup besides lead-off, another reason he may not fit in the lead-off role. For my money, I’d bat Maybin third.
So who’s the lead-off hitter? I’d vote for Chris Denorfia. Here are his splits by batting order:
His OPS from the lead-off spot is very high. He’s proven he can be successful in the number one spot, and he has sustained it over a long period of time. He started 39 games in the lead-off role. Each of the slash-line metrics he produced from this spot in the order are impressive. He hit .278/.328/.414. Denorfia seems to fit the role well.
I agree with Center’s choice for Hudson or Bartlett batting second, except I can make a choice here. I would bat Hudson second. Hudson, while frequently on the DL, produced slightly better than Bartlett in terms of WAR (1.0 as opposed to 0.1).
So we have our first three spots in the order. The clean-up batter is all going to depend on who the Padres choose for left field. If Kyle Blanks gets a good amount of action in left, I would probably bat Chase Headley in the four hole. While he has cut down on his power numbers in order to reduce his strikeouts, Headley gets on base, drives in runs, and is continuously improving. However, if Will Venable gets most of the starts in left field, I may bat him in the four spot and Headley in the six hole. Venable has the power to be a true clean-up hitter, but he needs to find the balance between speed, average, and power.
Batting fifth, I would have Jesus Guzman* or Yonder Alonso. Right now, with player position shifting, I’m not sure if Guzman will move, so he and Alonso are on the same plane. We’ll focus on Guzman though because he’s the known commodity. He’s earned a power spot in the lineup. While he had slightly fewer starts batting fifth in the order, he produced heavily as seen below:
Guzman’s slugging percentage is drastically higher while batting fifth than any other spot in the lineup. I did not include batting ninth because none of his starts came batting in the normal pitcher’s slot. I also did not consider batting seventh as he only did this once and the sample size is far too small.
*Bill Center has Guzman playing left field but I’m not convinced that will happen. To me this slot can go to Guzman or Alonso.
In the six spot, I already slotted Headley if Will Venable is playing left. If not, I would like to see Nick Hundley batting here. Hundley is another one of the Padres players who seems to be showing a continious improvement. He’s one spot down compared to Center’s list.
Again, the seven hole depends on who is playing left field. If Kyle Blanks is playing left, here’s his spot in the lineup. If Will Venable is in left, Hundley slips to this spot. Blanks is the type of player who needs to earn his stripes. As I wrote yesterday, he hasn’t gotten much of a chance, but you can’t just jump in and find yourself batting third or fourth without proven success. Blanks would be a good fit for the seventh spot and could easily work himself higher is he performs.
Batting eight is Jason Bartlett. His mediocrity deserves nothing better. That’s all I have to say for him.
Obviously, game situations are going to dictate the starting lineup and it’s unlikely that either Bill Center or myself are 100% correct with these projections. However, it’s an interesting exercise in analysis. Who fits best where?
What are your thoughts?