It’s been said, by people far smarter than me, that the day-in and day-out batting orders aren’t that important. Specifically, this was noted in the excellent book The Book by Tom Tango and company, which I feel is underrated or at least under-discussed mostly because of its terribly generic name. I don’t have my copy of The Book with me right now, probably because its in storage, but if I recall correctly the very best lineup, used in every game, only nets about 5-6 wins over a season compared to the very worst lineup. No one uses the very worst lineup, except maybe the Royals, and the value in each individual game is fairly marginal.
Nevertheless, when I see someone like Tyler Greene batting leadoff, I sit up and take notice. Some Tyler Greene facts:
- Career .200 hitter in the majors
- Career .264 OBP in the majors
- Career .335 OBP in the minors
- Only decent offensive year at any level inflated by a .350 BAbip
- Named his son Brayden
Brayden? Christ, that kid is stuck with the douchiness of the name “Braden” multiplied the uncalled-for need of every parent these days to stick a “y” where it doesn’t belong. No, I don’t want to meet your baby daughter Tyffyny. I already know I won’t lyke her.
Inexcusable parenting decisions aside, those aren’t the stats you want to see from a leadoff hitter. Those aren’t the stats you want to see from any hitter in the lineup, but assuming you absolutely must play Tyler Greene for some reason, you’d ideally like him getting as few PAs as possible. So why was Tyler Greene setting the table for Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols? I’m going to give Tony La Russa the benefit of that doubt that he hadn’t placed a bet on the Phillies before the game, so I’m pretty sure the answer is because he’s right handed.
In fact, the entire lineup was right handed last night, which also meant that four out of nine of the batters in the lineup were batting somewhere around .200. That is A Bad Thing and against a good pitcher like Hamels there’s really no doubt in my mind why the Cardinals only scored one run last night. You can’t play with half a lineup and expect to do some damage. Mather and Greene are AAAA players and Brendan Ryan is the kind of guy you accept in the lineup only when there aren’t two other guys hitting even worse.
I realize that in Tony La Russa’s mind, sending a lefhanded batter to face a lefthanded pitcher is like trying to beat “rock” with “scissors”. In years past, he’s been able to get a lot out of marginal guys by playing the percentages. But Greene and Mather don’t look like marginal guys. There’s no reason to be running them out there instead of Colby Rasmus or Skip Schumaker. Rasmus, especially. It’s one thing when you’re platooning a Schumaker, a vet with several years under his belt and a .522 OPS against lefties. But Rasmus is young, has success in the minors against southpaws (.826 OPS compared to .860 against righties), and is the future of the team.
Sure, Rasmus has struggled in (limited) playing time against lefthanded pitchers so far in the majors. But he’s not going to learn to hit them sitting on the bench. I’m having flashbacks to 1999 and a young J.D. Drew losing playing time in CF to the corpse of Shawon Dunston. That’s not something I want to see repeated this season. If we’re going to have a black hole in the lineup, let it be the slick fielding young player who is still developing, not Joe Mather.
And if Tyler Greene absolutely must be in the lineup, please don’t bat him leadoff.