Saturday, April 02, 2005

Tike Redman to Bat Third

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

If this is Lloyd McClendon's idea of an April Fools' Day joke, it's not very nice to Tike Redman.

If it's not, this is the cockamamiest baseball idea of all time. The effect of this move will be to take plate appearances away from Jason Bay and Craig Wilson, the two best hitters on the team, and give them to Tike Redman, who's possibly the worst hitter on the team.

Here's the Trib article. Here's the Post-Gazette writeup. I'm posting them both because of they offer an amazing array of half-baked explanations and bizarre reasonings.

McClendon, from the PG:

"But, if you want to talk about legitimate No. 3 hitters, we don't have one. We don't have Jim Edmonds. We make do with what we have, whether that's Tike or Bay or anybody else."

'We don't have a legitimate No. 3 hitter, whatever that is, so it makes sense for me to put my most pointless hitter there'?

From the Trib:

"I like his contact, I like his average, I like his two-strike approach, and I like his speed atop the order," McClendon said. "If he's on base, that's going to allow the big boppers behind him to see a few more fastballs."

If his "speed atop the order" is the issue, wouldn't it behoove McClendon to put Redman at, you know, the top of the order? That would be a stupid and unimaginative thing to do, but at least McClendon wouldn't be breaking new ground for stupid.

From the PG:

Part of McClendon's motivation, as he explained it, is to move high-average players to the top. That would be Lawton (.277 last season), Jack Wilson (.308) and Redman (.280). This way, he added, he could minimize his team's glaring shortage of players with a history of good on-base percentage.

That's an interesting theory, in a Sean Connery / Celebrity Jeopardy sort of way. Hey, if Jose Castillo, a high average hitter in the minors, gets off to a hot start, expect to see him batting cleanup by May.

"We've got quite a few guys who have a lot of strikeouts, if you look at Craig, Mackowiak, Bay and Ward, and that's something we've got to be concerned about," he said. "We need to keep the ball in play, keep the runners moving. We've got to somehow score more runs."

Oh, for...

Look.

Daryle Ward, Strikeout Concern, 2004: 45 K 293 AB AB/K: 6.51
Matt Lawton, Professional Leadoff Hitter, 2004: 84 K 591 AB AB/K: 7.04

Lawton's strikeout rate would look a bit better compared to Ward's if I'd factored in the two players' walk rates. But Ward's strikeout rate and Lawton's are similar. If strikeouts at the top of the lineup are the issue, why would McClendon want to lead off with a player whose strikeout rate is similar to that of another whom he considers part of the problem? I'm not arguing that Lawton shouldn't be the leadoff hitter, but that even given the ludicrous rationale offered, this decision makes no sense.

Now let's consider the rationale itself. Are strikeouts the problem with this offense? Of course not. The value of a strikeout, by run expectancy, is only .01 more than that of any old out.

So:

Craig Wilson, 2004: 169 K x .01 = 1.69
Tike Redman, 2004: 52 K x .01 = .52

1.69 - .52 = 1.17

If baseball history is to be believed, the difference between the cost of Wilson's strikeouts and of Redman's was a little over a run in 2004. That's before considering everything else they did on offense.

It isn't that strikeouts have no effect as compared to other outs - if there's a man on third and no outs, striking out is bad. Rather, it's that strikeouts have almost no effect as compared to other outs. For a team with the Pirates' deficiencies, offensive strikeouts should be far, far down their list of concerns.

What about the put-high-average-players-at-the-top theory? Well, this one is sort of similar to the put-high-OBP-players-at-the-top theory that intelligent teams believe in, except without the intelligence.

Let's assume that the lineup before this move would have been

Lawton
J. Wilson
Bay
C. Wilson

and now it will be

Lawton
J. Wilson
Redman
Bay
Wigginton/C. Wilson/Mackowiak.

Here are the 3rd and 4th spots, by 2004 stats:

Before:
#3: .282/.358/.550
#4: .264/.354/499

After:
#3: .280/.310/.374
#4: .282/.358/.550

By moving Redman to the third spot, the Pirates presumably gain 16 points of batting average in the third and fourth spots combined. They lose 48 points of on-base percentage and 125 points of slugging percentage.

A single is better than a walk, in that a single can move a runner on first to third or a runner on second to home, and a walk cannot. But what does that mean in concrete terms? Let's do a quick and dirty analysis.

Redman's 2004 BA: .280
C. Wilson's 2004 BA: .264
Redman, hits per 500 at bats: 140
C. Wilson, hits per 500 at bats: 132

With 500 at bats each in a season, at their current batting averages, Redman would get eight more hits than Wilson. Remember, though, that a single only has more value than a walk or an HBP with runners on base (or if a fielder makes an error on the single). Lawton and Jack Wilson's combined on-base percentage is likely to be about .350 in 2005, so let's say that one or both of them gets on base in front of Redman about 45% of the time.

8 hits X .45 = 3.6

The difference between Redman's batting average and Craig Wilson's might help Lawton and Jack Wilson move up an extra base about four times over the course of the entire season. Again, that's before considering the other massive differences between Redman and Craig on offense.

What about speed? That can't be McClendon's real motivation for doing this, since #2 hitter Jack Wilson is not especially speedy - he's never stolen more than eight bases in a season. If speed were the issue, the more obvious - and slightly more sane - solution would have been to put Redman in the #2 spot and move Jack Wilson down in the order. If McClendon would like to go all Juan Pierre / Luis Castillo on the National League, he probably should take note of the fact that Jack Wilson is just Alex Gonzalez with better contact skills, and that the Marlins ranked 11th in the NL in runs scored last year.

I suspect McClendon's real reason for moving Redman up is that he wants to load the top of his lineup with players who look like top of the order hitters. McClendon probably looks at Lawton and sees a savvy, athletic veteran who can steal bases; he looks at Jack Wilson and sees a small, scrappy, situational type of hitter who does the little things; he looks at Redman and sees another athlete who can steal bases. Me? I look at McClendon and see a man who has lost his ever-lovin' mind.

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