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Who’s Hitting First? OBP and Lineup Construction

Baseball: World Baseball Classic-Canada vs USA Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s one part of the Dusty Baker experience that drives me crazy, it’s lineup construction. On any given day a lineup can work out, but over the course of 162 games, you want to play the law of averages. Lineups might not move the needle a lot, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to maximize runs, and thus you want your better hitters near the top of the lineup. Over the course of 162 games, Your leadoff hitter will get on average 144 more PAs than your #9 hitter, and 90 more PAs than your #6 hitter. That’s a lot of plate appearances. Likewise, if you bunch good hitters near the top, your #3-5 hitters will get more RBI opportunities than your #7-9 hitters. Dubon hat 58 PAs in the 1st or 2nd hole, and had a .254 OBP last season. That should’ve never happened. When Dubon led off, he was an automatic out (.189 OBP).

Luckily, Dusty had Altuve hit leadoff in every game that he started last season. If you haven’t heard, Altuve is out for two months.

The best thing for this team would be if Kyle Tucker leads off. Tucker’s OBP was only .330 last season, but he was punished by the shift, and in 2021 it was .357. He’s likely to be nearer the 2021 number. Moreover, he led the team in steals with 25 and stealing bases just got easier. Yes, you’d be wasting some of his power by guaranteeing that he has less RISP opportunities, but the same was true with Springer and Altuve.

The rest of the lineup then comes into shape. With his patient approach Bregman is the perfect #2 hitter. Alvarez can move up to #3 and Abreu can bat 4th. This way you have your unquestionably top 4 hitters in the top 4. A healthy Brantley can protect Abreu, but in the interim I’d suggest Jeremy Pena, who has the pop and seems unfazed by anything. From there some combination of Chas, Hensley, Meyers, and Maldy would round out the lineup.

This proposal will never happen, as Dusty will be hellbent on finding a way to have Meyers or Pena lead off. This could work, but Pena still hasn’t resolved his contact and plate discipline issues (22 bb / 135 K in 2022) and it might not be the wisest thing for him to work those out from the leadoff position.