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Angels undecided on where Albert Pujols will bat in lineup

Mar 2, 2012, 10:15 AM EDT

Los Angeles Angels Photo Day Getty Images

Albert Pujols had 7,433 plate appearances for the Cardinals and 82.6 percent of those came as a No. 3 hitter, but the Angels aren’t certain yet where he’ll bat in their lineup.

Mike Scioscia told Alden Gonzalez of that he’s leaning toward keeping Pujols in the No. 3 spot, in part because it guarantees he’ll bat in the first inning of every game and in part because he’ll get more plate appearances than he would batting cleanup.

Under what circumstances would he bat Pujols fourth?

If there’s issues with our [No. 9 hitter] not being productive, our 1 and 2 guys struggling a bit, there’s definitely a look that we’re going to have that might put [high on-base guys] 1-2-3 with Albert hitting fourth. That’s a possibility. It’s not our preference. But you have to consider it.

Various batting order analysis has shown that you want a hitter like Pujols batting third instead of fourth, and in fact based on statistical analysis alone there’s a strong argument for the best hitter on a team batting second. It all depends on the rest of the lineup options, of course, but sticking with Pujols as a No. 3 hitter makes the most sense, presumably with Erick Aybar and Bobby Abreu in front of him.

  1. okobojicat - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    “Various batting order analysis has shown that you want a hitter like Pujols batting third instead of fourth, and in fact based on statistical analysis alone there’s a strong argument for the best hitter on a team batting second”

    Aaron, I thought that it was generally agreed you that the 3-hole hitter hits with no one on base significantly more than the 4-hole hitter. Thus someone like Pujols would make more sense in the 4-hole. Obviously, in the 2-hole is better as he gets more PA.

    • Ari Collins - Mar 2, 2012 at 12:04 PM

      This. The #3 hitter often comes up with no one on base in the first inning, rarely comes up with two on, and never with the bases loaded. It’s a fairly low-leverage spot in the first inning.

      This is balanced somewhat by a slightly higher number of plate appearances than the cleanup hitter, but overall the cleanup spot is more important.

  2. marshmallowsnake - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    I would say that you want your best power hitter third. Even if 1-2 get out, there is still a chance that he will get you 1 run on a solo homer. The chances are low that he will be walked with another power guy behind him.

    • marshmallowsnake - Mar 2, 2012 at 5:17 PM

      Nice thumbs downs…must be small ball supporters. Whimps.

  3. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Mar 2, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    M. Night Shymalan would have him bat 8th! What a twist!!

    • SmackSaw - Mar 2, 2012 at 11:50 AM

      I usually dread your posts, but that one made me laugh out loud.

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Mar 2, 2012 at 2:33 PM

        Haha, thanks man.

  4. hermitfool - Mar 2, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    “Various batting order analysis has shown…”

    Seriously? I thought Bill James proved beyond all reasonable doubt batting order has nothing to do with scoring runs.

    Team OBP? Definitely.

  5. buffalomafia - Mar 2, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    Its either 3-4

  6. hackerjay - Mar 2, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    I’ve never seen any lineup analysis say that the #3 hitter is the most important. Accordign to The Book, the order of importance is:
    #1 – Get’s the most at bats, so you want to make sure you put a good player there. Though power is a bit lost on the #1 guy, so ideally you would have a guy that gets on base a ton, with power being a secondary concern.

    #4 — This is the batter that has the most at bats with runners on base, so you want your best power guy here to maximize the number of runs scored on home runs.

    #2 — You want pretty much the same kind of player here that you have hitting first to help set the table, but this batter also gets a ton of at bats, so you want to make sure it’s a good hitter.

    #5 — This is the guy that sees the second most base runners, so you want your second best power hitter here.

    #3 — of anyone in the top half of the line up, the #3 hitter sees fewer at bats with runners on then the #4 or #5 guys, so there isn’t a good reason to waste your best hitting in this slot.

    Ideally, you would put your best OBP guy first, your best SLG guy fourth, your second best OPB guy second, and your second best SLG guy fifth, and then your fifth best hitter third.

    In the end though, having an optimally set up line up will get you something like two extra wins at most, so it really deosn’t matter that much.

    • Kevin S. - Mar 2, 2012 at 2:10 PM

      Are you sure? I thought Book-optimal was 2/4/1/3/5/6/7/8/9.

      • Mike Cook - Mar 5, 2012 at 12:24 AM

        The Book’s findings say that 1, 2, and 4 have similar value at the top, with your highest SLG guy 4th, your highest OBP guy 1st. After those three, 5th has slightly more value than 3rd because the 5th hitter comes up less often with none on, two out.

    • Mike Cook - Mar 5, 2012 at 12:20 AM

      Have read this chapter as well and agree with your lineup analysis 100%. I disagree though that the ~two wins to be gained through lineup optimization aren’t significant. On the free agent market two wins are thought to be worth about $10MM, and obviously one or two wins often makes the difference between missing or making the playoffs. It’s one of my sabermetric pet peeves that The Book’s findings re: lineup optimization are not being embraced by basically any teams.

  7. westcoastredbird - Mar 3, 2012 at 4:42 PM

    Dinero Gigante has batted 3rd for 11 years. It’s his natural hole. He was the Cardinals best hitter and he was highly successful there. Don’t try to outthink the room Mike. You’re biggest problem is who is going to hit behind him. Matt Holliday always seems like he was pressing trying to protect Dinero Gigante. There is a lot of pressure trying to protect a hitter like DG. Maybe Morales is up to the task.

    • Mike Cook - Mar 4, 2012 at 11:36 PM

      Sure, Pujols has hit 3rd for the majority of his career. He’s the best hitter in the game though and will mash anywhere in the lineup. The primary adjustment he’ll be dealing with this year is just getting more familiar with AL pitchers. Dropping him to the #4 hole should not even register on his radar screen, and will lead to more PAs with runners on, and likely more RBIs. The research in The Book (chapter 5), backs this up.

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