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Now Leading Off For Your Houston Astros . . .

Was monkeying around at The Hardball Times the other day, and came across a couple methods for quote unquote optimizing lineups.

Now if Jimy Williams is out there reading, I know he's saying, "what the hell you need to optimax a lineup for?  That's why you got the manager!"

And he'd be right; if we were able to somehow establish that Garner was running the most perfect version of the Houston Astros out there each night, and in its most perfect order, well, that would severely curtail our ability to criticize him.  And who wants that?

Nevertheless, I couldn't help myself.  So I hauled myself over to Stephen Stein's handy little applet right here.  He calls it  a "Lineup Toy" and the method he uses seems very reasonable.  Given any nine players, the toy will

  1. Put the best OPS in 3rd

  2. Put the best remaining Slg in 4th

  3. Put the best remaining OBP's in 1st and 2nd (with the better SLG in 2nd)

  4. Arrange the remaining players in order of descending SLG

Again, hard to bitch about.  So I dove in.  At this point, even though Spring Training has yet to start, it's kind of hard to make the case that the Opening Day starting nine is not 89% set in stone.  Without going into the reasons for each, I think we can agree Ausmus, Berkman, Biggio, Ensberg, Lane, Oswalt and Wilson are locks to be taking the field April 3, and Everett is a lock as long as he's not traded.

The question mark is whether Bagwell can go.  If he can't, Taveras is your third outfielder.  OK, or maybe Burke.  And if systems are fully functional for Bags, he'll be the one taking the last slot in the order, with Berkman taking the third outfield slot.

Simple enough.

So what does the Lineup Toy have to say about each of the possible lineups?

Very interesting.  Certainly, the toy does not run any sophisticated algorithm, and the numbers are based on 2005, not any PECOTA projection or whatever, but at the same time, check it out again above, what it does seems intuitively reasonable.  Yet it INSISTS that our catcher lead off, and suggests that our big free agent signing is a number 7 hitter.

To be continued, certainly, but any thoughts?

How, for example, do you think the results would be affected if you adjusted Willy's SLG so that every time he singled and stole second, he got credit for a double?  Or what about the assumption that the best OPS should be placed third?  Should that be cleanup?