Predicting Jays’ 2007 batting order

It is hard to believe but Blue Jays manager John Gibbons wrote the same lineup card only seven times during the 2006 season. In total, the Jays played with 120 different lineups during the course of their 162 game season. As such, it seems a little ridiculous to even debate what order the Jays should use, but what the heck…

The most common players at each position in the batting order in 2006 were:
1- Reed Johnson 104 times (Rios 34)
2- Frank Catalanotto 104 times ((Rios 34)
3- Vernon Wells 150 times (Rios/Overbay 5)
4- Troy Glaus 136 times (Overbay 21)
5- Lyle Overbay 92 times (Molina 25)
6- Shea Hillenbrand 55 times (Molina 36)
7- Bengie Molina 48 times (Zaun 34)
8- Aaron Hill 93 times (Adams 18)
9- John McDonald 80 times (Adams 32)

The most common order used by the Jays (a ******** seven times in total) was: Johnson, Catalanotto, Wells, Glaus, Overbay, Rios, Molina, Hill, McDonald.

In Oakland, the Blue Jays’ new designated hitter, Frank Thomas, batted in the four hole 105 times, while he also appeared 30 times in the fifth spot. With Cincinnati and Washington, new shortstop Royce Clayton was most commonly found in the second spot (44), seventh spot (40) and eighth spot (29) in the lineup.

Now, the big question when determining your lineup is: “What type of production do you expect from each slot?”

The leadoff position is easy. You want your leadoff batter to get on base and score runs. The best leadoff hitters have good speed, smart base running instincts and an innate ability to ignite the offence. With the second batter you hope for a lot of the same qualities, but you also want a player who can make consistent contact and move the runner along. Your No. 3 batter is a player you pay big bucks to in the hopes he will drive in runs and maintain a reasonable batting average to prolong the inning and make sure there are men on base for the big gun in your lineup, the clean-up hitter. The No. 4 hitter is another top-paid player and his main goal is to drive in runs anyway possible, even is it means struggling to break a .260 average. In the fifth spot it is often good to have a player that has some power and can offer protection to the clean-up hitter so pitchers do not simply pitch around the No. 4 hitter.

Now we are getting into a grey area with the six-through-nine hitters. Your sixth hitter is typically someone with a bat that can change a game with one key swing, but the consistency or power is not there to justify an assignment in the three-through-five spots (Shea Hillenbrand was a perfect example of this in 2006). The seventh spot is a great place for a catcher, or someone who might clog the bases and doesn’t have the power to make that fact irrelevant (a la Frank Thomas). The eighth and ninth hitters are traditionally your weakest batters, although Aaron Hill did not fit that description in 2006. Neither spot sees a lot of key RBI opportunities (at least managers hope not) and a lot of times any offensive contribution whatsoever is appreciated. The No. 9 spot, in a perfect world, would be a great spot to have some more speed, so pitchers then have to worry about two stolen base threats, when combined with the leadoff batter the second, third and fourth times through the order.

2007
Let’s see what our projected 2007 starter do best based on their 2006 numbers:

* Stats = AVG, OBP, SLG, R/RBI, K/BB, HBP, SH, SF, GIDP, SB

C-  Gregg Zaun  .272  .363  .462  39/40  42/41  3  0  5  11  0

1B- Lyle Overbay  .312  .372  .508  82/92  96/55  2  0  2  23  5

2B- Aaron Hill  .291  .349  .386  70/50  66/42  9  4  5  19  5

3B- Troy Glaus  .252  .355  .513  105/104  134/86  3  0  5  29  3

SS- Royce Clayton  .258  .307  .341  49/40  85/30  5  7  6  14  14

LF- Reed Johnson .317  .388  .477  86/49  81/33  21  1  1  10  8

CF- Vernon Wells  .303  .357  .542  91/106  90/54  3  0  9  16  17

RF- Alex Rios  .302  .349  .516  68/82  89/35  3    0   10  10  15

DH- Frank Thomas  .270  .381  .545  77/114  81/81  6    0    6  13  0

So, let’s break this down by inserting the obvious choices first:

Reed Johnson makes a lot of sense for the leadoff position. Although he stole only eight bases last year, he has speed and he is a smart base runner. He also has that ability to ignite the offence. Based on 2006 stats, he led the projected lineup in average and OBP, but he gets a strike for the number of walks he takes (which is then offset by the number of times he gets on-base via the plunk). Regardless, it’s good enough on this team for the No. 1 spot in the lineup.

Projected:
1- Johnson
2-
3-
4-
5-
6-
7-
8-
9-

In the cleanup spot we should see new Jay Frank Thomas take over for slugger Troy Glaus, who would then slide down one spot in the order. Thomas, although perhaps slower, grounded into 16 fewer double plays than Glaus did in 2006, and we all know what rally killers those can be. Thomas and Glaus both possess extraordinary power and the ability to drive in runs. Neither maintains a high average at this point so they really are not fits for the No. 3 spot.

Projected:
1- Johnson
2-
3-
4- Thomas
5- Glaus
6-
7-
8-
9-

The Jays’ newest multi-multi millionaire Vernon Wells fits nicely into the third spot in the lineup, especially if he can duplicate or surpass his 2006 numbers. Wells has solid power, above-average speed and the ability to hit .300, making him a prototypical No. 3 hitter.

Projected:
1- Johnson
2-
3- Wells
4- Thomas
5- Glaus
6-
7-
8-
9-

Lyle Overbay spent a fair bit of time in the five spot in 2006 and his numbers almost make you wonder what kind of No. 2 hitter he would make. But then you look at the 23 double plays he grounded into in 2006. By process of elimination, he slides into the No. 6 hole and offers some protection to Glaus, who in turn offers excellent protection for Thomas, and so on.

Projected:
1- Johnson
2-
3- Wells
4- Thomas
5- Glaus
6- Overbay
7-
8-
9-

The No. 2 spot is perhaps one of the stickiest spots on the Jays’ 2007 lineup. The second spot in the lineup is KEY to scoring runs because that leadoff runner has to get into scoring position as soon as possible, and the Jays are not going to rely on the stolen base to get things done. The options are Gregg Zaun (good contact hitter, will take a BB – but is slow), Aaron Hill (good average – but grounded into 19 DP), Royce Clayton (14 SB, seven SH – but will he hit .250?), and Alex Rios (.300 AVG, power, 15 SB – but 10 DP and few BB). I hate the idea of Rios’ bat languishing in the seventh spot, so let’s give him a shot for the No. 2 spot and pray he becomes a little more selective. Wherever the Jays choose to bat Rios, I just hope they pick a spot and leave him there, unlike 2006.

Projected:
1- Johnson
2- Rios
3- Wells
4- Thomas
5- Glaus
6- Overbay
7-
8-
9-

As per the guidelines mentioned above, Gregg Zaun is the perfect batter for the seventh spot, as he has some power and an OK stick but little speed.

Projected:
1- Johnson
2- Rios
3- Wells
4- Thomas
5- Glaus
6- Overbay
7- Zaun
8-
9-

That leaves Aaron Hill and Royce Clayton for the last two spots in the lineup, although I would eventually like to see Hill in the No. 2 spot. In 2007, the Jays could very well have a .300 hitter batting eighth, if Hill continues to develop. The downside is that he has limited power and his increasingly stocky build led to 19 double plays in 2006. Clayton and his weak bat fit well into the No. 9 spot and he adds some speed (14 SB) that could combine nicely with Reed Johnson after the first time through the order.

Projected:
1- Johnson
2- Rios
3- Wells
4- Thomas
5- Glaus
6- Overbay
7- Zaun
8- Hill
9- Clayton

There you have it, ladies and gentleman: your ideal 2007 Jays’ batting order. Let’s just hope they can use it more than seven times.

*Stats and batting order information were obtained from http://www.baseball-reference.com.

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