Resident SABR geek Vizzini offers his proposal on what he thinks the Yankees batting order should look like. Also, in keeping with sabermetric tradition, he’s never made love to a woman.

In “The Book,” Tango, Lichtman, and Dolphin give us some guidelines for creating the optimal lineup:

- Put your best hitters in the #2 and #4 spots, with the better slugger hitting cleanup. The leadoff hitter should be of similar quality and have high on-base skills.

- The #3 hitter should be of a lower quality than the 1, 2, and 4 hitters because he comes up in lower leverage situations on average (ie, he comes up more often with 2 outs and nobody on). In fact, the #5 hitter gets the higher overall run value chances vs the #3 hitter.

- The #3 hitter faces the most double play situations.

- Leverage your good baserunners by putting them in front of good hitters, regardless of their power numbers. Ideally, the hitter should be one who puts the ball in play a lot and hits a lot of singles and doubles.

- In attempting to optimize the batting order, any single lineup alteration is likely to result in a only a very small gain (usually less than one run over the course of an entire season).

We want to emphasize that last point. Batting orders are fun to argue about. And lineups that have hitters with varying types of skills and overall skill levels can squeeze out a couple- maybe even a few- wins over the course of a season by optimizing their batting order. On a team like the Yankees, the win value is even more marginal than that. The lineup is awesome, so it’s not like the advantage the Cardinals can gain by properly ordering Pujols/Holliday vs Molina/Freese/Ryan. However, even if it’s a very marginal advantage, if it’s the correct move, the Yankees should do it. Maybe we squeeze out an extra win and maybe it’s a difference maker.

We begin by listing the Yankee starters by their average wOBA projection:

1. ARod .407
2. Teixeira .400
3. Johnson .372
4. Granderson .365
5. Jeter .363
6. Swisher .361
7. Posada .360
8. Cano .357
9. Gardner .336

There’s not much you can do to really screw up a batting order with these hitters. Everyone projects to be above average. Teixeira and ARod are the elite hitters and should be slotted in the #2 and #4 spots (Girardi will likely continue to bat Teix 3rd. This is the wrong move, but the cost is minuscule). Everyone will agree that Gardner should regularly hit at the very bottom of the order. The rest of the Yankee hitters all project between a .357 and a .372 wOBA. You can pretty much pick ‘em out of a hat. Nonetheless, we at NoMaas are a thorough lot, so here are what the optimal lineups should look like:

vs. LHPs
1. Jeter
2. Teix
3. Swisher
4. ARod
5. Johnson
6. Posada
7. Cano
8. Granderson
9. Gardner

Jeter has sizeable platoon splits, and his high OBP versus lefties means he can continue as the Yankees leadoff man. His speed is fairly well leveraged at the top of the lineup. More importantly, batting leadoff minimizes Jeter’s liability as a GIDP-machine. There are our best hitters in the 2 and 4 holes. Swish and Stick are the Yankees next best hitters versus lefties. As the better HR hitter, Swisher is better suited to the 3 hole. This also keeps the slow-footed, groundball hitting Stick out of the spot where his GIDP tendencies will hurt most. 6-9 is in descending order of wOBA. We believe Granderson will rebound to post much better numbers vs lefties, but his platoon splits can’t be ignored right now.

The major weakness of this lineup is having three lefty bats in a row at the bottom of the order. Opposing managers will be able to take advantage of this by LOOGYing this part of the lineup late in close games.

vs. RHPs
1. Johnson
2. Teix
3. Granderson
4. ARod
5. Posada
6. Jeter
7. Cano
8. Swisher
9. Gardner

Johnson should boot Jeter out of the leadoff spot in most games. He is the better hitter versus righties. Leading off hides his GIDP problems. Jeter’s baserunning skills are still well leveraged hitting in front of a singles and doubles hitter who rarely strikes out. Granderson moves up, as he rakes against righties. His fly ball rate and speed led him to only GIDP once last year. Swisher could very well flip with Cano- he’s likely the better hitter. But, it’s close and this order makes it impossible for a manager to match up LOOGYies for more than one batter in a row (Stick has reverse platoon splits in his career).

Messing around with the Yankees batting order to generate only a few extra runs over the course of a season may not seem like much to get fussy about, but with how tight the competition is in the AL East, everything will help.

battingorder
What formulas will Joe have in his little binder this season?