All-MLB Prototypical Lineup

As a preface to this column, I am copying and pasting the email that Joe Hamrahi of Baseball Digest Daily sent out earlier tonight about a guest column I did for them.

Evan Brunell guest stars this week on Baseball Digest Daily with a fantastic article on the state of the Red Sox minor league system. Evan reviews the first half of the season with an in-depth look at each level of the organization. Be sure to check out the article here http://www.baseballdigestdaily.com/showArticle.asp?ArticleID=165. Feel free to link to the article.
Discussion is encouraged.

Today, we’re going to back away from the Red Sox and check out the major leagues as a whole. The other day, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick posted “The Ultimate Lineup” (no link, because it is flash) in where Crasnick picked the scariest lineup available, factoring in righty/lefty, and at least okay speed and disregarded defense entirely. What he came out with was a devastating lineup. Then, MVN’s own statistics guru took it one step further and added in defense. Below on the left is ESPN’s lineup, and on the right is Statistically Speaking’s lineup.

1. Brian Roberts (2B)
2. Bobby Abreu (CF)
3. Albert Pujols (1B)
4. Manny Ramirez (LF)
5. David Ortiz (DH)
6. Vladimir Guererro (RF)
7. Alex Rodriguez (3B)
8. Jason Varitek (C)
9. Miguel Tejada (SS)
1. Bobby Abreu (RF)
2. Brian Roberts (2B)
3. Alex Rodriguez (3B)
4. Albert Pujols (1B)
5. Derrek Lee (DH)
6. Miguel Tejada (SS)
7. Jim Edmonds (CF)
8. Miguel Cabrera (LF)
9. Jason Varitek (C)

I’ve decided to take a stab at this. I’ve created an AL lineup (w/ DH), an NL lineup (w/o DH), and a combined MLB (w/ DH) lineup not only using the best hitters, but factoring in defense, speed, and where they bat in the batting order. In other words, what the “prototype” hitter for that batting position should be. Now, I realize that not everyone’s prototype for batting order is the same, but I’m the one doing this, so I get to pick the prototype! Obviously, a good team would have a much stronger #8 and #9 (coughcough Boston Red Sox coughcough) but we’ve been pretty spoiled.
1. The leadoff hitter, he should have speed, hit for a high average, and OBP is always a nice plus. Generally in the field he has nice range and is considered an above-average fielder.
2. The second batter is responsible for gap power, to either drive the leadoff hitter in, get him to third base, or be standing on second with a double. High OBP is preferred, and he also has reasonable HR pop. In the field, he is not terrible, but does not need to be stellar, either.
3. The third hitter is generally the best hitter on the team with high power, high OBP, high average, and isn’t that bad of a runner, either. Defense is less of a premium here, but most (not all, most) can handle themselves out in the field.
4. The cleanup hitter is usually the one with the worst defense, but is slotted here because of his amazing power. He is allowed to have an average to below-average average as long as his plate patience and power remain as a premium. Is also usually the slowest runner.
5. One could consider this guy the power guy that gets the leftover pickings. He’s supposed to be able to drive the ball out of the park and clean up whoever is on the base. He does not have to be a runner, but is appreciated. Consider him the #2 hitter with HR power, not gap power.
6. The #6 hitter can be a poor-man’s #2 hitter, where he is out of his league but is a reasonable #2 hitter for the days that the #2 hitter sits. Generally, the #6 hitter should have a bit more pop than the #2 hitter, but it is not really a picky spot. Gap power or HR power is justified here. Defensively, average to above-average is common.
7. More of a contact hitter’s paradise, power is not placed at a premium here. Speed should be at least above-average, with defense above-average as well. Considering the demand for power is not as pressing here, the demand for OBP rises, for the #7 hitter should compensate for the lack of offense coming out of the #8 hitter (or #9, if it is the AL.)
8. In the National League, generally the flashiest defender, good running skills, but can’t hit a lick. In the AL, he is a repeat #7 hitter, albeit less contact is traded for better defense and running. Running is however, not a need here but is appreciated.
9. In the NL, preferred in this slot is the pitcher who can get excellent bunts down to sacrifice runners over. Pitchers who can actually hit (Mike Hampton) are always chosen over excellent sac-bunt pitchers. In the AL, it is the NL version of #8.
Now that we’ve gone over that, let’s check out who I think best fits the bill in each league and combined. The left is the AL, the right is the NL. The pitcher’s prowess on the mound has been disregarded for this exercise. Also, I have factored in previous years of statistics, but have placed a heavy premium on the current year. I also cheated a bit, putting a left fielder who was converted to first base into left field. Sue me.

1. Ichiro Suzuki (RF) – SEA
2. Coco Crisp (LF) – CLE
3. Miguel Tejada (SS) – BAL
4. David Ortiz (DH) – BOS
5. Brian Roberts (2B) – BAL
6. Jason Varitek (C) – BOS
7. Ben Broussard (1B) – CLE
8. Scott Podsednik (CF) – CHW
9. Mark Teahen (3B) – KC
1. Dave Roberts (CF) – SD
2. Marcus Giles (2B) – ATL
3. Derrek Lee (1B) – CHC
4. Albert Pujols (LF) – STL
5. Morgan Ensberg (3B) – HOU
6. Matt Lawton (RF) – PIT
7. Paul Lo Duca (C) – FLA
8. Cesar Izturis (SS) – LAD
9. Jason Marquis (P) – STL

Originally my AL lineup was:
1. Ichiro Suzuki (RF) – SEA
2. Melvin Mora (3B) – BAL
3. Miguel Tejada (SS) – BAL
4. David Ortiz (DH) – BOS
5. Brian Roberts (2B) – BAL
6. Jason Varitek (C) – BOS
7. Ben Broussard (1B) – CLE
8. Scott Podsednik (CF) – CHW
9. Randy Winn (LF) – SEA
However, I was not too happy with the #2 and #5 hitters. Not because they are terrible, but because I think they’re actually too good for that position. I couldn’t get rid of both of them, though, so I moved Brian Roberts to second and replaced Mora in the five spot. I was hamstrung with positions to pick, so I tried to find a prototypical #5 hitter who played third. I kept coming back to Mora, but I refused to select Mora. Mora is a true #2, and I wanted a watered down #2 with a bit more power, as I explained in my coverage of what I felt a #5 was. So I tried finding a flashy third-baseman who could fit in the #9 spot, and I found one in Teahen, so it was now up to me to find a prototypical #5 for left field. I instead found a much better fit for #2, so moved Roberts back to #5 and slotted Crisp into #2.
As for the NL, it was quite easy to pick who belonged where than the AL. I think the NL most represents the prototypical lineup a team could have. Please note it is not should have, but could have. Each team should strive to have #3 hitters in positions 1-9, but life just doesn’t work that way. There’s a reason these stereotypes are around, they have been built upon decades of experience, thinking, and playing baseball.
Another thing I learned with this is the absolute depth the AL has offensively, poring over potential candidates. Also, off the top of my head, the AL is at least comparable to the NL, so it is really no surprise why the AL has dominated the AL in the All-Star Game and World Series as of late – the AL teams are much more deeper and talented.
Now, I had to find a way to combine the two and not overlap any positions. I also refused to move any players up or down in the lineup – I had placed them there for a reason, so I had to choose between the AL and NL counterparts for that slot. It was tougher than I thought it would be, but I came up with the All-MLB Prototypical Lineup.
1. Ichiro Suzuki (RF) – SEA
2. Marcus Giles (2B) – ATL
3. Derrek Lee (1B) – CHC
4. David Ortiz (DH) – BOS
5. Morgan Ensberg (3B) – HOU
6. Jason Varitek (C) – BOS
7. Shannon Stewart (LF) – MIN
8. Scott Podsednik (CF) – CHW
9. Adam Everett (SS) – HOU
As you can see, the #7 and #9 hitter didn’t even make it onto my AL and NL team! This is because a position overlap occured. Ben Broussard plays first base, and Derrek Lee has that position sewed up. Likewise, Morgan Ensberg laughs at the Mark Teahen’s of the world. I had to go find a new #7 hitter who could play either LF or SS, and ditto for #9. I decided to find a fielding whiz for shortstop at #9, because there are more fielding whizzes at shortstop than left field. I was very tempted to pick Pokey Reese, but he hasn’t played at all this season, so Everett it is. That left left field to find, and as you can see, I selected Shannon Stewart.
So there you have it, my All-MLB Prototypical Lineup. How did I do?