2013 Lineup Construction


It’s no big secret: The Rangers offense is sure to look very different next year. There’s no more Josh Hamilton, no more Mike Napoli, and no more Michael Young. Each has packed their bags and traded in their red and blue Texas apparel for some shade of red, whether it’s Hamilton and the Angels, Napoli and the Red Sox, or Young and the Phillies.

As of today, the Rangers starting lineup, depending on the platoon, is going to look something like this:

C – Soto/Whiteside

1B – Moreland/Olt/Kinsler

2B – Profar

3B – Beltre

SS – Andrus

LF – Murphy/Kinsler

CF – Martin/Gentry

RF – Cruz/Murphy

DH – Cruz/Moreland/Olt

For purposes of staying in the here and now, we’re going to assume the Rangers make no acquisitions in regard to the offense. I get it, the odds of this happening are slim, as it seems we have holes in the middle of the lineup and at the utility infielder position. However, for simplicity, and so you understand the concept I’m about to broach, this is the offensive setup we’re going to roll with.

If you glance at that alignment of players, you’ll see that, sans Adrian Beltre, there isn’t a whole lot of slug in the lineup. Maybe if you want to bank on big rebound seasons from Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler, but outside of that, it’s not a lineup built to hit a lot of home runs.

However, paying particular attention to the quartet of Andrus/Profar/Gentry/Martin, it is a lineup capable of manufacturing a ton of runs, namely through stealing bases. It’s not the blueprint I would draw up fielding an offensive onslaught in Arlington, but if it is to be, then so it is.

I will now get into lineup construction. Because it’s a roster lacking in the power department, we’re not going to have as much leeway in terms of the grey area where we can avoid mistakes via hitting a three-run homer hear and there. No. It has to be different. With less room for error, it has to be an offense predicated on getting on base, stealing bases, and driving them in with singles and doubles.

As compared to a lineup featuring Kinsler/Andrus/Hamilton/Beltre/Cruz/Young/Napoli/Murphy, where you can really slot any individual anywhere you want and still expect to be one of the top run-producing teams in baseball, 2013 must take into account the placement of which hitters hit where.

Tom Tango, author of “The Book,” states that a team’s best hitters should occupy the leadoff spot, the two-hole, and cleanup. His contention to the more traditionalists methods is that, often times, the number 3 hitter (the one we’ve been taught to believe is the team’s top offensive talent) comes to bat in the first inning where there are two outs and nobody on base — statistically the worst odds for getting a run across home plate. The reason he chooses to bat the best hitter in the cleanup spot is if the first three hitters get out in the first inning, the team will still have their best hitter leading off the next inning. And, as you can deductively reason, that statistically gives you a better chance of scoring a run (no outs, no one on base > two outs, no one on base).

With that said, he are my two platoon lineups for the 2013 season, given we don’t add anything significant from here on:

vs. RHP

1. Kinsler – LF

2. Murphy – RF

3. Cruz – DH

4. Beltre – 3B

5. Moreland – 1B

6. Andrus – SS

7. Profar – 2B

8. Soto – C

9. Martin – CF

vs. LHP

1. Kinsler – LF

2. Andrus – SS

3. Cruz – DH

4. Beltre – 3B

5. Murphy – RF

6. Olt – 1B

7. Profar – 2B

8. Soto – C

9. Gentry – CF

As you can see, I’ve identified the three best hitters against righties to be Ian Kinsler (leadoff), David Murphy (second) and Adrian Beltre (cleanup). Against lefties, I swap Murphy out with Elvis Andrus batting second. My basis for leading off Kinsler is that I’m putting faith in in him to be more like the career 112 wRC+ player in 2013 than the 99 wRC+ hitter he was in 2012. Also, I see a big contract year from Nelson Cruz, which is why I put him batting third in each lineup, meaning I believe him to be the 4th-best hitter on the team. Murphy is a platoon outfielder who killed righties to the tune of a 127 wRC+ in 2012, but against lefties, whom he’s historically produced poorly against, I do not have him batting second. (In 2012 Murphy had a BABIP [batting average on balls in play] of .433, which is about a hundred and twenty points above league average. I don’t see that as sustainable moving forward, which is why I have Andrus batting in what has become his natural position, second.)

If I’m being honest with you, which, I don’t know why I’m saying anything, because I always am, I’m not in love with either of these lineups. If we added Nick Swisher and somehow traded for Justin Upton, our lineup would again be amongst the best in baseball. But all I’m going off of is what we have right now, and right now we’re a light-hitting speed team who has the potential to play elite defense.

Given the lineups as you see them, we’re going to need 25+ stolen bases from all of Kinsler, Andrus, and Gentry, and another 15-20 from Profar and Martin, to be able to make up for 50-100 runs that we’d otherwise be lacking — due to the dearth in slugging ability.

Over the last 15 years as a Rangers fan, I’ve fallen in love with the Juan Gonzalez‘s and Ivan Rodriguez‘s and Alex Rodriguez‘s and Mark Teixeira‘s and Hank Blalock‘s and Alfonso Soriano‘s and Rafael Palmeiro‘s and countless others I can’t even think of off the top of my head. We had bangers. 2013 might potentially be the most abstract lineup I’ve ever seen, but there’s certainly a formula for scoring runs; it’ll just be in a different way.

I know you probably think it’s weird that I have two separate lineups, one where Elvis Andrus is not the #2 hitter, the other that he is, and where Nelson Cruz — of all people — is batting 3rd. I completely understand. We can’t rely on the home run like in year’s past. We’re going to have to run. We’re going to have to run a lot. But who knows?

Anything is possible, right?

This is me trying to be optimistic.