I have been making the case that the most important spots in the Tigers lineup are determined by proximity to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. What a lineup needs for maximum success is for your guys most likely to get on to be in the lineup spot where they are most likely to be driven in. Unfortunately, a club can’t pick and choose OBP or the SLG it takes to drive guys in – players are bundles of tools and some have a lot of everything while others have a lot of nothing. Cabrera and Fielder are simultaneously the most likely to drive in runs – putting OBP at a premium in front of them – and the most likely to get on base – putting SLG at a premium after.
What I have compiled is a table showing the number of times that the average MLB team reached base due to a single, double, triple, walk or hit batter by lineup position in 2011 and the percentage of those times in which they ultimately rounded the bases to score. Note that this does not count home runs – I’m looking exclusively at baserunners who later scored. TOB here is ‘Times On Base” and “Plate” is the percentage of those TOB in which the runner scored.
|Order||League TOB||League Plate||Detroit TOB||Detroit Plate|
Overall, the Tigers did a better than average job of plating runners on base (32% compared to 30%) – not surprising given their strong overall team batting average and slugging percentage. That said, the lineups dependence on Miguel Cabrera (and Victor Martinez) was obvious: the average MLB #3 hitter scored only 29% of the times he got on base whereas Tigers #3 hitters (batting immediately in front of Miguel Cabrera) scored a full 40% of the time. Bear in mind that though he wouldn’t be as good as Cabrera, the average #4 hitter around baseball is pretty good at driving in runs. Nonetheless – Cabrera’s presence (and Martinez and the rest of the bottom of the order guys, but mostly Cabrera) raised their chances of being plated by 38%. Pity then that Tigers #3 hitters were so abysmal at getting on base in the first place (thank you, Ordonez). What this would imply is that while OBP is always important from a #3 hitter – it was 38% more important for the Tigers than the norm due to the increased likelihood that the guy would wind up scoring.
That critical lineup spot is now #2, since Cabrera himself has been moved up to the #3 slot this year. One can hope that replacing Victor Martinez with Prince Fielder will improve Miggy’s own plate rate from the 29.1% he got last year closer to the 35.1% that Fielder gave Brewers’ #3 batters. Guys like Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila did a great job at the bottom of the order in driving in Victor Martinez last year, lets hope that they (and Delmon Young) can do the same for Prince.