Best Lineup - Houston Astros

Kevin C. Cox

Next up on my look at each teams most efficient lineup is the Houston Astros. In this exercise the methodology is to use my simulator to find out which lineup wins the most games vs RH and LH pitchers. I do this by making the team of interest the "away" team, playing against a "make believe" team whose stats don't change from one sim to the next. In fact no stats (or input projections) change for either team, the only difference from one simulation to the next is the lineup of the team of interest. For player projections, I am using ZIPs projections which are available on Fangraphs. The lineup results will only be as good as the projections. Keep in mind, the results are not intended to match what a certain teams manager is most likely to do during the season. In fact, I know that many of the results will not happen due to manager philosophies and veteran favoritism but these are the most optimal lineups that the simulator spit out. In some cases the top couple of lineups had very small differences in results. The starting nine players were taken from MLBDepthCharts website.

Astros 2014 ZIPS Hitting Projections

Dexter Fowler 28.3% 13.7% 0.247 0.354 0.382 0.736 0.328
L.J. Hoes 16.7% 8.4% 0.271 0.337 0.366 0.703 0.313
Jason Castro 24.9% 10.8% 0.256 0.337 0.439 0.776 0.335
Chris Carter 33.8% 11.4% 0.228 0.319 0.461 0.780 0.340
Marc Krauss 30.1% 10.3% 0.213 0.298 0.369 0.667 0.296
Robbie Grossman 27.1% 11.2% 0.228 0.321 0.330 0.651 0.289
Jonathan Villar 27.8% 7.3% 0.235 0.295 0.356 0.651 0.287
Jose Altuve 12.5% 5.1% 0.285 0.323 0.384 0.707 0.308
Matt Dominguez 15.8% 5.3% 0.249 0.294 0.395 0.689 0.300
Jesus Guzman 22.8% 8.5% 0.249 0.318 0.416 0.734 0.320
George Springer 31.1% 9.9% 0.237 0.319 0.439 0.758 0.335

Now on to the results....

........................ Best Lineup ................................... Best Lineup With George Springer

vs RHP vs LHP vs RHP vs LHP
1 CF-Dexter Fowler CF-Dexter Fowler 1 CF-Dexter Fowler CF-Dexter Fowler
2 RF-L.J. Hoes 2B-Jose Altuve 2 RF-George Springer RF-George Springer
3 C-Jason Castro C-Jason Castro 3 C-Jason Castro DH-Jesus Guzman
4 1B-Chris Carter 1B-Chris Carter 4 1B-Chris Carter C-Jason Castro
5 DH-Marc Krauss DH-Jesus Guzman 5 DH-Marc Krauss 1B-Chris Carter
6 LF-Robbie Grossman LF-Robbie Grossman 6 LF-Robbie Grossman LF-Robbie Grossman
7 SS-Jonathan Villar SS-Jonathan Villar 7 SS-Jonathan Villar SS-Jonathan Villar
8 2B-Jose Altuve RF-L.J. Hoes 8 2B-Jose Altuve 2B-Jose Altuve
9 3B-Matt Dominguez 3B-Matt Dominguez 9 3B-Matt Dominguez 3B-Matt Dominguez

MLBDepthCharts Projected Lineup

Fowler - Altuve - Castro - Carter - Krauss - Grossman - Dominguez - Hoes - Villar

Platoon of Krauss/Guzman


Dexter Fowler: The Astros at least have themselves a good leadoff hitter. Fowler is projected to sport a 13.7% walk rate and a 0.354 OBP. Couple that with speed and the ability to hit from both sides of the plate and Fowler should give the Astros plenty of run scoring opportunities. Now whether or not Fowler can bring any of those runs home is up to a pretty shoddy middle of the lineup.

L.J. Hoes: The simulator likes Hoes batting second against RH pitchers and eighth against LHP, flip flopping with Jose Altuve between those two batting order positions. The difference is minimal in the results so it is not an error for Houston to bat Altuve second against both RH/LH pitchers which is what they will likely do. Hoes is projected to have a slightly higher OBP than Altuve (and slightly lower SLG) and does have some speed which causes the simulator to consider batting him second.

Jason Castro: An argument can be made that this is the teams best hitter going off of the ZIPS projections. Castro is projected to have the teams second highest OBP and SLG. The simulator likes Castro hitting third but dropping to fourth in the scenario with George Springer on the team against LHP. Castro will be counted on to meet or exceed his 2014 projection.

Chris Carter: No doubt lots of tears will be shed watching Chris Carter at bats this year. Whilst he is hard on the eyes, he does slug well and draw a decent number of walks. It is the over 33% strike out rate that makes for ugly baseball, but Carter is actually a good fit as a cleanup hitter on this team. Perhaps when Springer joins the team Carter may have more of an impact as a number five hitter in the lineup vs LHP but under no circumstance should he bat any lower in the order than that.

Robbie Grossman: If there is a common thread between the Astros hitters it is that they strike out a ton. Grossman is no different. He is projected to strike out over 27% of the time but his saving grace is that he does know how to take a walk. The sad part is that his SLG is just barely higher than his OBP and his OBP isn't all that high. We are already at the black hole portion of the Astros lineup at the sixth spot - this is not good! But the simualtor sadly does slot him into the six spot in the lineup.

Jonathan Villar: Lots of strike outs, not many walks - maybe there will be someone on base for him when he occasionally shows some of his power. But he is bad at hitting. He will probably bat 9th but the simulator bumps him up to 7th because it does not want the team to turn the lineup over with him.

Jose Altuve: One of the more well known Astros players. Altuve unlike most of his teammates is a contact hitter. Amazingly, he does not strike out too often but he also does not walk very often. If he had a little higher OBP he would fit in well hitting second behind Fowler but as it is he helps the team hitting eighth a little more than hitting second. The simulator does find a little synergy with Altuve hitting in front of Dominguez even though it is at the bottom of the order.

Matt Dominguez: Better known for his glove than his bat, the simulator believes that Dominguez adds the most value to his team hitting ninth in all scenarios. Dominguez has an awful OBP but can slug a little bit. Hitting ninth he can occasionally use that power to knock any members of the black hole portion of the lineup that happened to get on base ahead of him. The simulator still gives Dominguez a decent amount of RBIs hitting in the nine hole. Dominguez does have a similar line as Altuve where he is mostly a contact hitter but a 0.270 projected BABIP does not match that skill set well.

Jesus Guzman: Guzman provides respectable power as the right handed portion of a DH platoon. The simulator likes Guzman batting fifth when he starts against LHP and even bumps him up to third against LHP when George Springer is in the lineup.

George Springer: A rookie an immense amount of potential. And as a rookie Springer's ZIPS projection is a little modest. Springer is projected to strike out over 31% of the time but still walk a respectable 10% of the time. Springer brings a unique combination of speed and power to the lineup. And with a few respectable and slower power hitters hitting in the middle of the lineup, the simulator loves batting Springer second, right after Fowler. I'm sure it will be tempting for fans to want Springer batting third or fourth when he finally does come up, but given the projections the way they are Springer adds the most value to this team hitting second.

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