February 14, 2011 at 7:03 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
I’m being peer-pressured to make a comment on this tidbit from a David O’Brien interview with Fredi Gonzalez:
Q. You pay attention to some of the more sophisticated new stats than some older managers. At the same time it sounds like you’re not going to let those stats dictate your lineup. For instance, you’re not going to move Chipper down just because he’s not what he once was. You’re going on what you see and have seen, not just on what stats tell you?
A. Yeah. You’ve got to use all the information you can get that’s out there. Then use your instincts or your gut feeling or whatever.
Q. So you’re not going to make a lineup based solely on sabermetics, on things like WAR or VORP. (Laughter.)
A. No, or – what’s the other one — DIPS? No, we’re not going to do that. Or hit the pitcher eighth. I’m not there yet.
So let’s break it down, piece-by-piece.
DOB: You pay attention to some of the more sophisticated new stats than some older managers.
Fredi’s proclaimed association with advanced statistics is not news, JC pointed out that he attended SABR 40 last summer and he’s spoken with several reporters on the subject over the past few months, indicating he both values and studies them. It’s always important to take what a manager says with a grain of salt. He could be telling the truth, it could simply be lip service. This is encouraging, but we’ll see what actually happens.
At the same time it sounds like you’re not going to let those stats dictate your lineup.
A manager’s job is to make his team perform as best they can. If that involves optimizing the line-up by The Book, great. Other things, like maintaining a balanced lefty-righty structure and keeping the players happy aren’t unimportant, either. If one of the guidelines detailed in the linked article interferes with one of these other things, the guideline is probably worth bending, or ignoring. A properly optimized line-up–one with your best three hitters batting 1, 2, and 4–is only worth about a win a year versus the typical, old-school line-up–one with your best hitter batting 3rd, a crappy-OBP guy who steals a lot of bases batting 1st, and a punchless, below-average hitter batting 2nd. Avoiding unfavorable late-game match-ups and keeping the players happy might just net you a win, too. Therefore, letting sabermetric research* dictate the line-up arrangement is not a good policy.
Now, should Fredi consider said research when he constructs his line-up? Absolutely. He should know exactly what he’s gaining or losing on paper with each move he’s considering. For instance, if he’s thinking of batting Nate McLouth 2nd and Jason Heyward 6th, he should know that’s not how The Book says you’re supposed to do it and he should know it’s worth about 4 runs a year (I made that number up but it seems reasonable. Obviously the Braves should be more diligent than I am being). Maybe he decides that’s too much to give up and leaves Heyward hitting 2nd, or maybe he decides he’d gain even more “off paper” and makes the switch. I can live with that. I loved it when Bobby hit Heyward 2nd; it was my favorite managerial decision of 2010. But if Fredi considers all of the information available and decides he’d prefer to do something different, I would have nothing to complain about.
Not letting sabermetric research dictate your line-up is the correct decision. Failing to consider sabermetric research is inexcusable. It’s clear Fredi won’t be committing offense number one. Whether or not he does commit offense number two I’ll probably never know, though, again, his early rhetoric is encouraging.
*”sabermetric research” would have been the term I chose rather than “stats”. DOB is writing for a huge, diverse audience, which undoubtedly affected the language he’s able to use. You’re reading a blog, you know what sabermetric research means. A lot of people reading newspapers don’t.
For instance, you’re not going to move Chipper down just because he’s not what he once was.
I do not know of one person who a) is familiar with sabermetric line-up optimization research, b) is familiar with the Atlanta Braves, c) knows what they’re talking about, and d) advocates moving Chipper Jones down in the line-up. If anything, these people advocate moving Chipper Jones up the line-up! (to leadoff). Basically, The Book says:
- Put your best on-base threat first unless he’s also your best power hitter, in which case bat your 2nd or 3rd best on-base threat first.
- Put your best two remaining hitters second and fourth, the better power hitter batting fourth.
- Put your best two remaining hitters third and fifth, with the better hitter fifth unless he lives and dies by the homer.
Chipper is one of the team’s best five hitters and should be hitting in one of the top five spots. Perhaps re-arranging the pieces such that Chipper is hitting first or fifth would lead to a slightly more optimized batting order. But the offense works with Chipper batting third and anyone telling you otherwise or that Chipper batting third is remotely close to the organization’s biggest problem is an amateur whose opinion should not be taken seriously.
You’re going on what you see and have seen, not just on what stats tell you?
Discussed at-length above, the conclusion being the correct answer is “yes”.
That works, too.
You’ve got to use all the information you can get that’s out there.
Again, excellent answer. Though, again, with the caveat that this is a manager talking and what he says might just be lip service.
Then use your instincts or your gut feeling or whatever.
I’m with ya, Fredi. You’re killing it.
DOB: So you’re not going to make a lineup based solely on sabermetics, on things like WAR or VORP.
I would hope not. Both of those metrics are total-value metrics that consider, among other things, defense* and position difficulty. How difficult the defensive position a hitter plays and how well he plays it aren’t–at all–relevant to how many runs a team scores or how to construct a line-up. You might see Tim Hudson leading off if you constructed your line-up exclusively using WAR. The line-up should be optimized to score the most runs, not to put the most valuable overall baseball players at the top of the list.
Even if DOB had substituted WAR and VORP with, say, weighted on base average or OPS+, the correct answer still would be to affirm the assertion. Because a) there isn’t a statistic that can be exclusively used to optimize a line-up as well as a human can–even on-paper–and b) as previously discussed, off-paper factors should be considered as well.
*Maybe VORP doesn’t consider defense these days, I’m not sure.
FG: No, or – what’s the other one — DIPS?
I can’t tell what’s going on here.
First of all, DIPS stands for Defense Independent Pitching Statistics and quite literally has nothing to do with line-up optimization. If you’re not familiar with DIPS theory, I recommend reading the Wikipedia entry on the subject. It couldn’t have less to do with offense, it’s applied exclusively to the other side of the ball.
Now, what’s going on here? I see three possibilities. One is Fredi is familiar with the term “DIPS” but does not actually know what it means. Two is Fredi simply brings it up to play along with DOB’s joke and in doing so he’s creating an illusion of ignorance where it doesn’t exist. Three is Fredi is extremely well versed in VORP, WAR, and DIPS, and is messing with DOB, laughing at him, rather than with him.
I think scenarios one and three are very unlikely. It would indeed be very disappointing if possibility one were the case, though I see no reason to assume it is.
No, we’re not going to do that.
It’s not entirely clear to me what “that” refers to, but I have to assume Fredi intends to refer to arranging the line-up exclusively using sabermetric research (or a sabermetric statistic). In which case not doing it is correct.
Or hit the pitcher eighth. I’m not there yet.
I have no opinion on hitting the pitcher eighth. Tony LaRussa does it and I don’t like him very much. The Book says there’s a small gain in doing so, though not really enough to get worked up over. Especially when you consider the added value of not being like Tony LaRussa.
The last sentence of the tidbit is curious to me, though. “I’m not there yet.” Is Fredi implying this is a place he would like to be? (Again, I have no opinion)
1) What do you think of Fredi’s ability to optimize a line-up? Is it high on your list of concerns heading into the 2011 season?
2) Bobby Cox was never regarded as a good tactician, but especially in 2010 he showed an interest in maintaining a more saber-approved line-up. Would you feel better with Bobby Cox or Fredi Gonzalez filling out the line-up cards in 2011 (assuming all of the other managerial duties fall on Fredi’s shoulders)?
3) I was probably unfair in my initial assessment of Fredi Gonzalez. If you paid attention only to the offseason rhetoric you’d think we’re going to see one of the more progressive managers in the game at the helm for Atlanta in 2011. His track record, though, is at best somewhat inconsistent with his comments this winter. Which Fredi are we going to get?
4) What does Fredi Gonzalez mean by “I’m not there yet”?