Friday, March 12, 2004

Musical Chairs
More Melvinian Madness. So Ibanez is suddenly a better cleanup hitter than Edgar? Buried in the article is Hickey's suggestion that it has something to do with the right-left-right of Boone-Ibanez-Martinez, though we don't know if that's the reasoning behind Melvin's plan. But let's go with that assumption. OBP/SLG over the past three years:

vs. left.294/.399.438/.542
vs. right.364/.523.402/.495
None on.335/.470.401/.529
Runners on.359/.517.422/.484

First, I'm assuming those of you reading this know that batters generally have a harder time hitting against pitchers who throw with the same hand that the batter bats, i.e. a lefty vs. lefty matchup favors the pitcher. The degree to which this is true varies from batter to batter and pitcher to pitcher, but it's one of the more consistent trends in batting splits.

All indicators here suggest that Edgar should be batting ahead of Ibanez, since he gets on base more often, in every situation. Ibanez does have a significant lefty/righty split, but Edgar's still better against right handers in absolute terms. Any opposing manager who realizes this will put the lefty against Ibanez anyway, knowing that it won't make much of a difference with Edgar. If the thought is that Ibanez is a "good RBI man"--which you would only subscribe to if you think there is such a thing as "clutch hitting"--then you'd want the guy who gets on base like nobody's business getting on base before your table clearer, right? Edgar gets on, Ibanez smacks him home.

There are two factors I'm not considering here: the idea of "protecting" someone in the lineup. With Edgar behind him, would Ibanez be more likely to see good pitches? What sort of effect will that have? I don't know, and I'd be interested if someone's done the research on it. Secondly, the simple fact that batters higher in the order will get more at-bats over the long haul. Until he shows he can't hit anymore--yeah, that's likely--don't we want Edgar getting as many ABs as possible?

In looking at whole left-right-left question, I'm finding that Boone and Edgar seem to be the only regulars on the M's who can do anything against lefties. Ideally, you'd put Ibanez behind Edgar, and then somebody who can mash lefties behind Ibanez, forcing any manager who puts in a lefty against Raul to make another change or face the music. But who's going to bat behind Ibanez who can do that? Aurilia, Spiezio, Olerud are all significantly worse against lefties. I guess we all hope that Ben Davis, who does hit lefties significantly better, figures out how to hit for a full year, get's the playing time, and sits right behind someone who doesn't fair too well against lefties. Hope springs eternal.

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