Question #2: Is a 'Belated Happy New Year' even possible?
Some conundrums for your mental pleasure on this Sunday night. Nonetheless, I hope everyone had an awesome, party-hardy New Years for '09.
I understand the difference between the best assembled and worst assembled lineups for any group of nine players is but a few dozen runs, but is the lineup below seriously the best Trey Hillman can conjure up for the 2009 season? I'm going to nitpick what I feel is incorrect about the lineup, and how I feel our manager is slightly misguided in his thinking. Granted, his thinking is still rather dubious. I think he understands the importance of OBP, but doesn't exactly know which old school statistics not to implement.
Keep in mind Hillman's original reveal of a likely 2009 lineup is rather dated, but it manifested itself once again in Dick Kaegel's looking forward of (to?) 2009.
Why? Because of his lifetime .331 OBP, a full 5 points below the league average during that time span? Because of his mediocre 72.9% career stolen base percentage? Because of his negative career WPA, which would almost certainly be anti-progressive in the leadoff spot of a lineup seeking to vastly improve from its paltry 691-run performance in 2009? He may 'make things happen' and be somewhat inefficiently 'fast', but it doesn't mean he should bat leadoff on any respectable squad. On the contrast, #2 hitter wouldn't be a terrible option, since OBP isn't as dramatically important in that spot as it is in the #1 slot and the #s 3-7 slots.
I understand this decision. Aviles performed respectably in the 2-hole last season, hitting .293/.329/.457. However, that total doesn't resemble his balmy yearly totals (122 SOPS+), and he was batting mostly between two of the team OBP leaders for last year, Dave DeJesus and Alex Gordon.
David is an asset to a team like the Royals. Good contact ability, excellent patience, and a team-friendly contract. However, I would be more inclined to pencil him into the leadoff slot, mostly because, well.....he's a true leadoff hitter. I'm afraid the organization views his lack of speed as a deterrent against placing him in that role. Such a mentality isn't proper evaluation of your club's resources. He gets on base and runs the bases reasonably well (although, granted, his career SB% is an atrocious 56%).
The reigning team leader in outs enters the cleanup spot, once again. Look, I supported the Guillen contract at the time, but to place such a horribly low OBP in the cleanup spot doesn't make sense. I hope Hillman isn't too enthralled by Guillen's circumstantial HR and RBI totals, again. I *do* feel Guillen will become much less hack-tastic in 2009, mostly because a) he does have better protection in the lineup, and b) I really do feel his low BA-OBP split of 2008 was an abberation. The team would serve itself better placing either Jacobs, Gordon, or Butler in this role, at the very least. Maybe the organization doesn't feel inclined to piss off the veteran, but then irrational bias toward vets over youngsters has been hindering teams' success for decades. It would best serve the Royals to escape such a mentality, but that's another story.
I'm more supportive of the Jacobs trade than most members of the Royals blogosphere. I feel his low BABIP total of 2008 (.260, which didn't correspond with his not terribly low LD% of 17.6) was an abberation, and a .277/.335/.470 performance next year is a safe bet. In our lineup, an argument could be made that he best fits our #5 slot. I feel the Royals should pencil a 'DH' next to Jacobs' name instead of a '1B', but that's another story. (Yes, Butler has good hands at first, and while that doesn't cover up his atrocious agility, it makes him a better fit at the corner slot than Jacobs...also keep in mind Jacobs has a -26 FRAA, while Billy has a career -0.9. Time accrued is, of course, important, but it isn't as if Butler's a complete downgrade).
I agree, but only to an extent. It is sensible, taken alone, to place Butler in this slot. By virtually all standards of evaluation, he underachieved last season, and it might make sense to place the 22-year old in a complementary role rather than a role of centerpiece (cleanup spot). However, I still would rather see Butler manning the #4 or #5 slot than Guillen or Jacobs. (And let Butler stand at 1B!)
Ummmmm....no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No. Gordon had the second highest OBP for a full-time player last season, and the third highest VORP (19.7) behind DeJesus (29.1) and Aviles (34.5), who sat in the #1 and #2 slots last year, respectively. Placing less pressure on the kid makes zero sense when his OBP is higher than anyone else in this lineup who played an entire season (sans DeJesus). Bat Gordon third.
I would almost rather J.R. House or Brayan Pena assume leading catching duties, given that they are bound to OBP much higher than Olivo for 2009. Olivo OBP'ed .278 last year, and had a .251 EqA. Olivo can throw runners out effectively, hit lefties with power, and can run the bases reasonably fast - and well, but he shouldn't start, in my opinion. However, if he did, it would probably make best sense to place *him* in the #8 slot.
#2 or #7 probably makes more sense, in this lineup (and possibly even #1), but I'll give Trey Hillman a pass, basing my agreement on the now commonly well regarded notion that the #9 man should serve as a secondary leadoff man.
So, in essence, grading Hillman's selections:
#8. C (A- on placement / D- on selection)
Overall: D+ (a well below average lineup - C+ being average)
Here is my lineup for 2009:
1. DeJesus, LF
2. Aviles, SS
3. Gordon, 3B
4. Butler, DH
5. Jacobs, 1B
6. Guillen, RF
7. Callaspo, C
8. Crisp, CF
9. Pena, C
....and choosing among these nine players, I would simply move Crisp to the 9-hole and replace Pena with Olivo and move him to the 8-hole.