A lot has been written recently on the seemingly never ending debate about whether lineup order matters.  The general consensus is that an optimal lineup is worth between 5 and 15 runs more than a standard lineup.  Personally, I feel a 5-15 run advantage is worthwhile, especially since it comes at such a low cost.

Generally speaking, an optimal lineup will have the best hitters in the 1, 2, and 4 spots with the lead-off guy tending towards a higher on-base percentage, and lower power, and the clean-up man tending towards higher slugging.  The rationale is pretty intuitive: get guys on base, and then have your power hitters drive them home.

After placing its three best hitters in the 1, 2, and 4 spots, a team then places its next best hitters in the 3 and 5 slots.  The worst three batters would be placed in the 6, 7, and 8 spots (although there is some debate about whether the pitcher should bat eighth, and the worst hitter ninth).

The slew of recent articles on lineup optimization got me thinking: how should the San Diego Padres set up their batting order?  What follows is my suggested line-up for the 2011 Padres, with ZiPS projected OBP/SLG in parentheses:

  1. Orlando Hudson (0.333/0.370)
  2. Chase Headley (0.342/0.418)
  3. Brad Hawpe (0.331/0.386)
  4. Ryan Ludwick (0.329/0.445)
  5. Will Venable (0.322/0.407)
  6. Cameron Maybin (0.319/0.379)…Note: I originally had Nick Hundley slotted here, and Maybin eighth, but moved Maybin up after re-reading the research from The Book, which suggests putting a light hitting base-stealing threat in the sixth slot.
  7. Nick Hundley (0.302/0.401)
  8. Jason Bartlett (0.337/0.370)
  9. Pitcher

In conducting the research for this article, it struck me just how similar most of the 2011 Padres position players project to be.  With the exception of Nick Hundley, all of the Padres have a ZiPS OBP projection between approximately 0.320 and 0.340.  Likewise, outside of Ludwick, all of the players have SLG projections in the high 0.300s to low 0.400s.  The projections are so similar that my suggested lead-off hitter, Orlando Hudson is projected to have a nearly identical line to my suggested eighth hitter, Jason Bartlett.

The similarity of the Padres hitters has a somewhat interesting implication: while lineup optimization might lead to a 15 run increase for some team, it is unlikely to be that high for this Padres team.  When a lineup is filled with a bunch of the same hitters, where those hitters are slotted hardly matters.

***Here are a few links to articles on line-up optimization: