There are folks who will tell you that lineup construction doesn’t really matter – and they’ll offer you advanced stats to prove it. I’m still a bit unsold in either direction (at bottom, I do agree with the idea that you want to bat your best hitters earlier in the order, as you want them getting the most at bats over the course of a season), but Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum isn’t.
He’s been going around and around in his head about just how to lay the Cubs’ order out, even joking that he’s lost more sleep about the lineup than anything else this Spring. A big part of the issue for Sveum is figuring out where guys are most comfortable, and most likely to perform well. From Paul Sullivan:
[I]n his first year as Cubs manager, Sveum admits he’s losing sleep over where to put his own hitters in the batting order. Using statistical analysis helps give Sveum a picture of who hits best in what spots, but he also has to play amateur psychologist to learn where his players feel most comfortable in the lineup.
“A lot of guys, you can say ‘OK, You’re going to hit here,’ and they’re like, ‘Oh, God, no, don’t do that,’ ” Sveum said. “(The Brewers’) Corey Hart was a little bit like that. Put him in the one or two hole, and he did unbelievable things. But if you put him in the fifth hole, he didn’t really want any part of that.
“Guys are like that. And you try to find out, through conversation, ‘Where do you seem to be most comfortable to where you can be most productive?’ Unfortunately, we live in a little bit of a world like that. Guys have that idea that no matter where they hit, there’s some significance behind it, instead of understanding that you’re going to get pitched the same no matter if you hit leadoff or fifth.
You can appreciate Sveum’s struggle, given his cast of regulars, none of whom clearly falls into a certain role. He’s got a guy who kinda gets on base (David DeJesus), a guy who makes a ton of good contact (Starlin Castro), a few guys with huge power but huge strikeout rates (Ian Stewart, Alfonso Soriano, and Bryan LaHair), another guy who can get on base but catches (Geovany Soto), and another couple guys who make a lot of contact but without a lot of power or on-base ability (Marlon Byrd and Darwin Barney). It’s just not easy putting together a lineup with that crew.
For that reason, I’m thinking we’ll probably have to cut Sveum some slack on the lineup thing (if it matters at all) early in the year.