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Optimizing the Astros' 2015 lineup

Building the best possible lineup for next season. Or at least trying to.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The new season is fast approaching and with a new season comes a new lineup. We can all dream of what the approaching season holds, but, without the perfect lineup, even reaching five hundred may be a challenge. Sadly, the lineup is entirely out of our control, but that won't stop us from worrying about it. So, without further ado, here is my optimal Houston Astros lineup for next season.

Please note, I've made this lineup in accordance with what THE BOOK: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, dictates is the perfect lineup, injected it with some subjectivity and I've even listened to the opinions of some of our writers, too. In case you're unfamiliar with THE BOOK, it reads:

Your three best hitters should bat somewhere in the #1, #2, and #4 slots. Your fourth- and fifth-best hitters should occupy the #3 and #5 slots. The #1 and #2 slots will have players with more walks than those in the #4 and #5 slots. From slot #6 through #9, put the players in descending order of quality.

Before we can begin constructing a World Series winning lineup, or something similar, we must agree on the strongest starting nine, in an attempt to truly optimise the lineup. I'm discounting the fact that Lowrie, sadly, will play shortstop, and Marisnick will play left.The general consensus of the Crawfish Boxes staff was that these nine players should take the field on opening day:

  • Hank Conger, C
  • Jon Singleton, 1B
  • Jose Altuve, 2B
  • Marwin Gonzalez, SS
  • Jed Lowrie, 3B
  • Dexter Fowler, LF
  • Jake Marisnick, CF
  • George Springer, RF
  • Chris Carter, DH

With the starting nine settled, one can assort these nine into an optimal lineup. The general premise of creating this lineup, like the aforementioned THE BOOK quote stated, is to condense our five best hitters into the first five spots. Within those five spots, to put it bluntly, we need some good on base ability at the top, and some nice slugging behind it. The rest of the lineup is simply put in descending order of quality. So, here it is:

1. Jose Altuve, 2B

Batting Altuve leadoff is, essentially, the only no brainer of this lineup. Last year, Altuve was hitting anything, anywhere and was getting on base at a rather beautiful rate despite his mere BB% of 5.1. He only struck out 7.5% of the time, compiled a brilliant wRC+ of 135, and did it all while hitting in the number one spot. It would be sacrilege to move him.

2. George Springer, RF

Springer burst onto the scene last year with an incredible rookie campaign. He displayed plenty of power and showed plenty of promise. That said, he did strike out at the rather torrid rate of 33%. It isn't ideal having someone striking out a bunch behind Altuve, but I like Springer too much. Going by THE BOOK, one's best hitters should be placed in the two or four holes, and that's exactly why Springer, and his wRC+ of 127 are hitting second.

3. Dexter Fowler, LF

I'll not lie, I was extremely tempted to bat Fowler in the leadoff spot. His slugging percentage has been low recently, and, according to Steamer Projections, it will lower even more next season. But, with his incredible on base ability, and some, in my opinion, developing power he will hit third in this hypothetical, incredible lineup. His BB% of 13.1, his OBP of .375 and his wRC+ of 124 make him an ideal candidate for the spot. And, not a candidate to usurp Altuve from the leadoff spot.

4. Chris Carter, DH

Obviously. I mean, the cleanup spot has Carter's name on it. He hits dingers, and lots of them. He also walked a bunch. Add the two together, think about his wRC+ of 123, and yeah, he's hitting fourth. His 37 home runs will look really nice behind Fowler and his OBP. While Carter may regress a little next year, he's still primed for a huge year. Enough said.

5. Jed Lowrie, 3B

Lowrie is far from glamorous. What he is, however, is solid. At third base he can bring average defense and average offense, going by Steamer's projected wRC+ of 105. Once more, going by Steamer, he is projected to be a two win player, compiling a WAR of 2.1 which is solid. While almost everyone would prefer Lowrie at third, he will more than likely play shortstop this year. His defense mightn't be attractive there, but one thing I will say: a wRC+ of 105 from a shortstop, is very attractive indeed.

6. Jon Singleton, 1B

The vast majority of projection systems aren't too high on Singleton. Most project some nice power, plenty of striking out, and minimal on base ability. That said, what he does have is ceiling. A very, very high ceiling. Singleton could well break out. If he does, watch him mash, and hit lots of dingers which would be super fun. He has the potential to be hitting fourth, but right now, he belongs in the six hole.

7. Marwin Gonzalez, SS

Gonzalez will most likely start the season on the bench, but that's a mistake. Yes, his defense is pretty poor, but, his offense is extremely good for a shortstop. Steamer project Marwin to post a wRC+ of 78, but after posting a wRC+ of 108, with a wOBA of .324, I'm willing to take a gamble that he can outperform his projection. At the end of the day, he is almost certainly better than Matt Dominguez. Ew, Matt Dominguez.

8. Hank Conger, C

Yes, Hank Conger is not Jason Castro. Conger is a superior pitch framer, and defensive player, as we all know. But, there's much optimism surrounding Conger's offense, surprisingly. He won't blow anyone away with his bat - he wouldn't even have to with his brilliant defense, though. But people, and by people I mean Crawfish Boxes writers, think Conger can develop into a nice hitter, with some nice gap-power. Right now, however, he is certainly not advancing above eighth in the order.

9. Jake Marisnick, CF

In all honesty, I couldn't care less what Marisnick hits. Okay, that's a lie. But, seriously, though: if Marisnick can even bring slightly below average offense to the table, his defensive abilities make him an everyday player, and a gold glover, more likely than not. Marisnick's OBP of .300 next year, hopefully - yes, we can hope - but more importantly, his UBR of 1.0 from last year, make him handy enough to have hitting in front of Altuve. But, man, that glove, that arm, that defense.

And there you have it: my lineup. I hope you like it. If you ask me, anyway, it's the strongest lineup the Astros could possible have, but for some fun - yes, this is fun for me - let's see what Baseball Musings think:

Runs per Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
4.370 Dexter Fowler Jose Altuve Marwin Gonzalez George Springer Chris Carter Jon Singleton Jed Lowrie Jake Marisnick Hank Conger
4.369 Dexter Fowler Chris Carter Marwin Gonzalez Jose Altuve George Springer Jon Singleton Jed Lowrie Jake Marisnick Hank Conger
4.369 Dexter Fowler Jose Altuve Marwin Gonzalez George Springer Chris Carter Jake Marisnick Jed Lowrie Jon Singleton Hank Conger
4.369 Dexter Fowler George Springer Marwin Gonzalez Jose Altuve Chris Carter Jon Singleton Jed Lowrie Jake Marisnick Hank Conger
4.369 Dexter Fowler Jose Altuve Marwin Gonzalez Chris Carter George Springer Jon Singleton Jed Lowrie Jake Marisnick Hank Conger
4.368 Dexter Fowler Chris Carter Marwin Gonzalez Jose Altuve George Springer Jake Marisnick Jed Lowrie Jon Singleton Hank Conger
Interestingly, they couldn't be more different to mine, of course. Musings like Fowler in leadoff but it's worth noting this optimal lineup only takes into consideration two numbers: a player's OBP and his SLG. Gonzalez hitting third, based on last years numbers, I must add, is also something I never considered. Personally, I'd hate that lineup. That said, if it scored 4.37 runs per game, count me in.

Player Steamer Projected wRC+
Jose Altuve 113
George Springer 118
Dexter Fowler 109
Chris Carter 116
Jed Lowrie 105
Jon Singleton 104
Marwin Gonzalez 78
Hank Conger 86

Jake Marisnick


Okay, maybe these guys aren't world beaters, but hey, this is looking like a good lineup. Only if I'm put in charge though, of course. I'm stupidly hopeful and optimistic for next season, with this lineup. Well, you've listened to me go on and on about my ideal lineup, but what would yours look like? Optimize the Astros, people.