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How to build the perfect lineup

Using Out of the Park Baseball, we can try and construct the ideal lineup for today’s baseball.

MLB: Texas Rangers-Globe Life Field Event Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Managers throughout baseball have spent years searching for the sport’s holy grail: the perfect formula to construct a lineup. And while Sabermetrics have helped us organize a lineup based on production, they do not tell us what skills combine to give us this outcome.

Wait no longer. With the magic known as Out of the Park Baseball’s simulation module, we can keep running simulations until we find out the ideal lineup. And so, that’s exactly what I did.

For those unaware with the series, OOTP defines all players with a combination of a handful of hitting attributes: Contact, Gap Power, Home Run Power, Eye/Discipline, and Avoid Ks, with Contact being a rating calculated from Avoid Ks, Home Run Power, and a behind-the-scenes BABIP rating. To test the importance of these ratings, I edited the Yankees batters to be perfect at one skill but absolutely horrendous at the others, before running a simulation of 1000 games against the Boston Red Sox in Yankee Stadium. These preliminary results, along with a control group of absolutely helpless individuals, can provide the beginning of our analysis:

  • Control Group: 64 runs, .046 AVG, 4 HR, .048-.082 OBP range, .092-.149 OPS range
  • Contact Subgroup 1 (BABIP only): 645 runs, .184 AVG, 3 HR, .170-.197 OBP range, .346-.414 OPS range
  • Contact Subgroup 2 (Avoid Ks only): 576 runs, .145 AVG, 5 HR, .140-.168 OBP range, .275-.322 OPS range
  • Contact (Combined): 6412 runs, .428 AVG, 5 HR, .414-.450 OBP range, .823-.895 OPS range
  • Gap Power: 198 runs, .046 AVG, 5 HR, .051-.069 OBP, .108-.166 OPS, 56% XBH%
  • Home Run Power: 3250 runs, .119 AVG, 2939 HR, .105-.148 OBP, .442-.598 OPS, 80% HR%
  • Eye/Discipline: 1216 runs, .046 AVG, 4 HR, .257-.274 OBP, .296-.331 OPS

It’s pretty clear to me, judging from this first group, that truly one-dimensional hitters would never work in the league. Even the one “one-dimensional” category, utilizing the game’s labels, is in truth the combination of two. Because of this, I realized that I had to make the hitters at least somewhat competent at another category — after all, the original round of simulations gave them ratings as hittesr worse than Zack Britton and Dellin Betances!

Thus, I bumped up the “BABIP” subcategory to maximum for every single hitter, while keeping the Avoid Ks category unchanged — this gave each Gap Power hitter a 35 contact (below league-average) and all Home Run hitters a 50 contact (league average) on the 20-80 scale.

  • Adjusted Gap Power: 1512 runs, .186 AVG, 1 HR, .184-.208 OBP range, .434-.487 OPS range, 38% XBH%
  • Adjusted HR Power: 4493 runs, .225 AVG, 3222 HR, .228-.255 OBP, .694-.806 OPS, 42% HR%
  • Adjusted Eye/Discipline: 3541 runs, .183 AVG, 1 HR, .363-.392 OBP, .535-.586 OPS

While not quite as potent a lineup as those of the full contact group above, these groups represent a much more playable sample. Of course, it does also show us why the three true outcomes has become so popular — extra-base hits, while better than singles, simply cannot provide the run-producing power that home runs do.

Utilizing these categories, I mapped these onto the ideal Sabermetric lineup, limiting myself to only two Contact-only hitters for the sake of fairness. After a few attempts trying to get a Adjusted Gap Power hitter into the lineup, I gave up, resulting in the following batting order:

  • High OBP hitter: Adjusted Eye/Discipline
  • Best Hitter: Contact (Combined)
  • Fifth-Best Hitter: Adjusted HR Power
  • Second-Best Hitter: Contact (Combined)
  • Adjusted HR Power
  • Adjusted HR Power
  • Adjusted HR Power
  • Adjusted HR Power
  • Adjusted HR Power

In 1000 games, this lineup scored 4332 runs, posted a .212 AVG, and hit 3158 HR. Furthermore, the team’s OPS range went from .532-861, with all but the leadoff hitter posting an OPS over .700; the leadoff hitter, despite his low OPS, nonetheless posted a .351 OBP, doing his job as an on-base machine.

Of course, no lineup will ever look like this; being a one-dimensional hitter will perhaps give you a cup of coffee in the Major Leagues (see Chris Carter), but it won’t get you long-term success. Nonetheless, it does reinforce many trends in modern-day baseball — namely, the value of home runs over all other types of hits and the power of walks, as these two groups provided the strongest performances out of any one skill-set.