Constructing Lineups with Ryan Braun | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

Over the past four days or so baseball has been secondary to urine on the mind of those around the Milwaukee Brewers. As interesting as human excrement can be, it would be nice to think about the game for a bit.

With Ryan Braun back in the fold, Ron Roenicke and the Brewers get to create their ideal lineup now as opposed to a third of the way through the season. However, given the absence of Prince Fielder and the insertion of new faces Mat Gamel, Aramis Ramirez and Alex Gonzalez into the mix, there are a few different ways for Roenicke to piece the puzzle together.

The Brewers’ best hitters are clearly Ryan Braun followed by Rickie Weeks, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart.  Roenicke has made it clear that Braun and Ramirez will fill the third and fourth slots in the lineup, and that Nyjer Morgan has a hold on the second spot against right-handed pitching. Combine that with Weeks’s desires to hit outside of the fifth spot and the lessened pressure on Hart without Prince Fielder in front of him in the fifth spot, and this looks to be the result against righties:

1. Rickie Weeks 2B
2. Nyjer Morgan CF
3. Ryan Braun LF
4. Aramis Ramirez 3B
5. Corey Hart RF
6. Mat Gamel 1B
7. Alex Gonzalez SS
8. Jonathan Lucroy C

That was the easy one. Things get a touch trickier with a lefty on the hill, as Carlos Gomez isn’t quite the hitter against southpaws as Morgan at least can be against righties. That gives the Brewers a couple of different options depending on where they want to place their power bats on Hart and Weeks. This is what I would do:

1. Rickie Weeks 2B
2. Corey Hart RF
3. Ryan Braun LF
4. Aramis Ramirez 3B
5. Mat Gamel 1B
6. Carlos Gomez CF
7. Alex Gonzalez SS
8. Jonathan Lucroy C

The order for the last three isn’t particularly important, although the Brewers could potentially get loads of value out of Gomez’s stolen bases in front of their weaker hitters should he hit sixth. This lineup is certainly top heavy, but the bottom of the lineup holds the platoon advantage and could make up for its general weakness.  The Brewers will have plenty of left-handed hitting bats to bring in against a solid right-handed reliever, with Norichika Aoki, Brooks Conrad and George Kottaras all bringing left or switch-hitting capabilities to the table (as does Cesar Izturis, but the platoon advantage still leaves him as an awful hitter).

However, I’m not sure Roenicke will be willing to move Gamel all the way up to the fifth spot in his lineup against left-handed hitters, and I’m not sure he’d be willing to put anybody besides Hart or Weeks there either. As such, this is more what I expect to see going into the season:

1. Rickie Weeks 2B
2. Carlos Gomez CF
3. Ryan Braun LF
4. Aramis Ramirez 3B
5. Corey Hart RF
6. Mat Gamel 1B
7. Alex Gonzalez SS
8. Jonathan Lucroy C

Roenicke is a big fan (almost disturbingly so) of bunts with the second hitter, but doing so with Gomez might not be such a bad idea: the speedster has a 39.7 percent hit rate on bunts in his career according to FanGraphs. Still, it usually isn’t a good idea to throw so many plate appearances to a hitter who just isn’t that good. Even with an .855 OPS against lefties last season, Gomez has a brutal .242/.287/.392 line in the split for his career. If he continues to show the improvement he showed last season (his 92 wRC+ was a career high), he could be useful here, but it would seem almost certain that getting a legitimately good hitter like Hart into this spot would pay more dividends.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Brewers’ skipper experiment with a few different orders over the course of spring training. For as much as sabermetricians and statistical analysts like to talk about lineup rules, it typically isn’t as big of a deal as the players being comfortable mentally. If that means sacrificing a few plate appearances to Carlos Gomez as the second hitter before he is pinch-hit for in the seventh inning, so be it. If the hitters hit well enough as a whole, it won’t matter too much what order they’re placed in.

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Tell us what do you think.

  1. Chris says: February 27, 2012

    Here is the crux of the matter: “If the hitters hit well enough as a whole, it won’t matter too much what order they’re placed in.”

    Perfectly said.

  2. Nicholas Zettel says: February 27, 2012

    If it makes you feel any better about Morgan/Gomez batting second, NL managers on the whole batted their 7th best batter second during 2011.

    So, the Brewers will do just fine with Gomez and Morgan batting second.

  3. karsen says: February 27, 2012

    I believe aoki and gamel will platoon. With hart going to first and aoki to right. So against lefties aoki hitting 2nd makes sence with hart at the 5 spot in the order.

    • Justin says: February 27, 2012

      Good point w/r/t Gamel getting platooned. I’m just not sure you put Aoki in second. I haven’t seen the predicted batting line for him this year, but I think I’d be fairly happy with him batting 6th, behind Hart.

  4. SecondHandStore says: February 27, 2012

    Roenicke likes Morgan/Gomez hitting second for their ability to bunt a runner over to second/third, right? Morgan and Gomez are both pretty fast. I wonder if there would be an advantage having them lead-off, as they seem more like the prototypical lead-off hitter, and having them steal. Then having Weeks in the 2 spot to try and drive them in.
    So the hypothetical I’m advocating is swapping bunting to advance the runner for stealing which advances the runner. Bunting requires the lead-off hitter to be on base, but the lead-off hitter has to be on base in order for the lead off hitter to attempt a steal, so let’s say the opportunity to do either is the same. The success rate for bunts is probably higher than stealing, though I don’t really know that for sure. I also assume a bunt would be attempted more often than a steal. That being said, Weeks seems wasted in the lead-off spot. His power alone makes him more valuable with runner(s) on.
    No matter what the scenario, I think it’s appropriate to identify Gomez as the weak link. If Aoki’s bat translates well, I think we’ll see he and Gomez battling for playing time. If the center field platoon then primarily becomes Morgan/Aoki, would that make the above hypothetical more attractive?
    For the record, my projected line-up is the same as yours expect I have Gamel and Gonzalez swapped, not because I like it that way, but because Roenicke seemed to like having Betancourt hit in the six spot.

  5. ecocd says: February 27, 2012

    The problem with having Gomez bunt is twofold, he’s a terrible bunter and he has power. He may get on base at a .374 clip, but the sheer number of bunt attempts that roll foul makes that option much less desirable by giving up an early strike and letting the cat out of the bag. He has a pretty surprising amount of power with the bat. If he were allowed to hit full time, he’s good for 15 HR per year and it’s hard to take the bat out of his hands for that, especially with a runner on 1st (preventing a stolen base attempt if he gets a bunt hit). Bunting for a base hit is rarely a good idea and it doesn’t really work for either Morgan or Gomez.


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