The best and worst MLB lineups have had to offer so far

12 Comments

This is a quick look at lineup spots by team through the first five weeks of the season, which have been the most productive and which have been the least. I’m just using OPS, so don’t take this as a study of any sort.

No. 1 hitters
1. Marlins – .894 (.422 OBP)
2. Cardinals – .894 (.387 OBP)
3. Rockies – .880 (.359 OBP)

league avg – .727 (.326 OBP)

28. White Sox – .580 (.287 OBP)
29. Reds – .500 (.233 OBP)
30. Athletics – .487 (.223 OBP)

The Marlins and Yankees are the lone teams getting a .400 OBP from the leadoff spot this year, and while that’s always been the ideal to shoot for, there’s hardly any chance of any team staying that high all season. Last year, only the Cardinals (.369) and Astros (.353) had even .350 OBPs from the leadoff spot.

No. 2 hitters
1. Reds – 1.084
2. Blue Jays – 1.001
3. Angels – .939

league avg – .751

28. Rangers – .560
29. Braves – .551
30. Brewers – .489

The Reds started off with Joey Votto batting second, and he was awesome, amassing an 1.173 OPS with a .474 OBP, six homers and 15 RBI in 17 games. So, of course, they dropped him back to third. Fortunately, Zack Cozart and Marlon Byrd have been pretty great in the two hole themselves, but that’s not going to last.

No. 3 hitters
1. Diamondbacks – 1.074
2. Cubs – 1.056
3. Dodgers – 1.045

league avg – .803

28. Nationals – .614
29. Rays – .557
30. Phillies – .515

The Diamondbacks are exclusively Paul Goldschmidt: he’s started all 32 games batting third.

No. 4 hitters
1. Mariners – 1.155
2. Nationals – .986
3. Royals – .975

league avg – .778

28. Twins – .608
29. Phillies – .576
30. Angels – .574

And the Mariners are all Nelson Cruz: he’s started every game in the cleanup spot and blown away the field.

What’s shocking, or at least would have been over the winter, is that this is the first of four appearances for the Angels in the bottom trio. The cleanup spot used to be Josh Hamilton’s. Now it’s 16 games from David Freese, 12 from Matt Joyce and five from Kole Calhoun (whom they much prefer hitting leadoff).

No. 5 hitters
1. Rockies – .949
2. Athletics – .949
3. Cubs – .846

league avg – .737

28. Angels – .614
29. Phillies – .588
30. Yankees – .576

Just because of the difference in hitting environments, Oakland’s .949 is more impressive than Colorado’s .949. They’re primary No. 5 hitter, Ike Davis, is at .867, but Stephen Vogt has provided quite a boost, with five homers in eight games batting fifth.

No. 6 hitters
1. Yankees – 1.023
2. Royals – .930
3. Dodgers – .869

league avg – .722

28. Cardinals – .549
29. Red Sox – .546
30. Reds – .535

The Yankees being dead last at No. 5 and way out in front at No. 6 is some sort of bizarre fluke. Brian McCann, primarily the No. 5 hitter, has a respectable .704 OPS in 21 games there, but Carlos Beltran (.407 in seven games) and Chase Headley (.435 in four games) have been horrible, dragging it down. On the other hand, both Beltran (.848 in nine games) and Headley (.824 in nine games) have been just fine as No. 6 hitters and they’re further bolstered by Chris Young (1.271 OPS, four HR in seven games) and Alex Rodriguez (2.528 OPS, three HR in three games)

No. 7 hitters
1. Dodgers – .933
2. White Sox – .828
3. Orioles – .787

league avg – .658

28. Red Sox – .434
29. Rangers – .425
30. Angels – .423

It’s the third of four appearances for the Dodgers in the top three. This one is truly a committee. Juan Uribe has started 15 of 32 games as a No. 7 hitter, but he has a modest .668 OPS. Alex Guerrero, Andre Ethier, Yasmani Grandal and Joc Pederson have combined for 15 starts and hit .444 with five homers in 54 at-bats.

Boston, which entered the year with seemingly the game’s deepest lineup, shows up near the bottom for the second straight spot, courtesy of Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Allen Craig. Their No. 7 hitters have combined for seven RBI in 33 games, five of them coming in Daniel Nava’s six starts.

No. 8 hitters
1. Reds – .932
2. Dodgers – .898
3. Marlins – .846

league avg – .673

28. Diamondbacks – .474
29. Angels – .392
30. Cubs – .297

The Reds take the cake for the most inconsistency by lineup spot this year. They top the list at No. 2 and No. 8 while also being last at No. 6 and next to last at No. 1. They don’t have any lineup spot in the .700-.800 OPS range. Their presence here is Cozart doing Cozart things, with some help from Brayan Pena. Even Skip Schumaker went 3-for-5 with two RBI in his one game batting eighth and he’s 4-for-27 with no RBI over the rest of the year.

The Cubs at No. 30 gets a big asterisk here; they’ve exclusively gone with their pitcher batting eighth. For the record, their No. 9 hitters have a .630 OPS.

No. 9 hitters (AL only)
1. Angels – .721
2. Blue Jays – .671
3. Tigers – .648

league avg – .583

13. Royals – .484
14. Rays – .480
15. Indians – .476

We’re taking the NL teams out of this mix and just looking at the AL squads. Oddly enough, the Angels top the list; their No. 9 hitters, mostly Johnny Giavotella, have a higher OPS than any of the spots from No. 3 through No. 8.

So, the absolute best of the lineups to date:

1. Marlins – Dee Gordon
2. Reds – Joey Votto
3. Diamondbacks – Paul Goldschmidt
4. Mariners – Nelson Cruz
5. Rockies – Nolan Arenado
6. Yankees – Chris Young
7. Dodgers – Alex Guerrero
8. Reds – Zack Cozart
9. Angels – Johnny Giavotella

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

Getty Images
13 Comments

Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.