Breaking Down the Optimal Padres Starting Lineup

Credit: Associated Press

Credit: USA Today

Andy Green has more options than ever when constructing his daily lineup. The San Diego Padres have depth, but what is their optimal lineup heading into the start of the 2019 season?

For the first time since 2015, the Padres have what resembles a legitimate major league-caliber lineup. With just two weeks before Opening Day, the Padres roster is starting to come into focus. There are several different philosophies on how to make the proper batting lineup. Recently, we have seen pitchers bat eighth and a prominent power hitter bat leadoff or second.

Let’s take a look at what the Padres starting lineup should look like. This does not necessarily suggest the best defensive lineup, this is focusing strictly on the best hitting lineup.

Leadoff

Typically, this is a player who is a good athlete, a smart baserunner and someone who knows how to get on base. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your highest on-base percentage hitter since that also could include your best slugger. This should be someone that is difficult to strike out as it’s tough to start a game with strike three when your team is up.

Luis Urias is a name that comes to mind, with his plate discipline and bat control. However, is that the kind of pressure the Padres want to throw on the rookie? Eventually, yes, he would suit that batting slot with his career .397 on-base percentage in the minor leagues but first, let’s let the kid get his feet wet in a less high-pressure spot.

Ian Kinsler fits the bill perfectly. He was the 10th-hardest batter to strike out last season with a 12% strikeout rate. Even though his numbers have dipped in recent years, he still has a career .339 on-base percentage. He has also batted leadoff in exactly 1,110 games in his major league career, with a .268 average and .335 on-base percentage in those games.

Kinsler, although not the fastest guy on the team, stole 16 bases last season with a 0.8 BsR (Base Running) score according to FanGraphs, where anything above 0 is considered above average.

Leadoff is the slot Kinsler is most comfortable with as he led off in 54 games last season, the most in any spot in the order and that also reflects during his entire career. For most of the spring, Kinsler has indeed been the leadoff hitter.

Batting First: Ian Kinsler

Second

Ideally, your four best hitters should be batting in the top four spots, to optimize the number of at-bats. Among the three remaining best hitters, the number two spot will go to the one with not as much pure power as the other two but perhaps better contact numbers. It used to be the spot where a speedy athlete who wasn’t as good a hitter as the leadoff guy but those days are gone.

Credit: AP Photo

Now it is very common for some of the best hitters in the game to hit second. Mike Trout hit second more than any other position last season, as did Kris Bryant, Aaron Judge, and Christian Yelich.

It seems as if the second spot is the new “three-hole.”

Eric Hosmer hit second much of his first season in San Diego and given the lineup now will include some hitters with more power than he, it’s likely he will stay here. He gets some “protection” batting in front of the likes of Manny Machado, Wil Myers, and Franmil Reyes. He is still one of the better contact hitters in the lineup and one of the most experienced.

Batting Second: Eric Hosmer

Third

Historically, the best overall hitter on the team would hit third. Some studies suggest that no longer should be the case. I researched the last two seasons between the third and fourth positions in the lineup to see which was more productive and still, despite recent suggestions from “sabermetricians,” the number three slot is still the strongest hitter.

MLB Teams 2017-2018

Average wRC+
3rd 116
4th 111

 

Average OPS
3rd 0.812
4th 0.796

 

Batting Average
3rd .270
4th .262

Clearly, in the last two seasons, the team has been getting more overall production from the number three slot in the order.

However, the fourth spot does have the edge in home runs.

Average HR
3rd 54.6
4th 58.8

This makes sense of the phrase “cleanup hitter” as this batter, more than other slots, will clean up the bases with home runs.

In conclusion, your best overall hitter should still be hitting third and there is no question who the Padres best hitter is. Plus, the third batter is guaranteed an at-bat in the first inning while the cleanup hitter is not.

Batting Third: Manny Machado

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.

11 thoughts on “Breaking Down the Optimal Padres Starting Lineup

  1. I know this will be unpopular, but hear me out. No one cares about the opening day lineup or an “optimal offensive lineup” since it’s becoming obvious that Tatis, Jr. will be up soon after the extra year is in play. It’s more valuable to consider the best lineup for the future. The Padres should be allowing the “highest ceiling” lineup every opportunity to win their spots till they prove they can’t. A few weeks into the season – for the duration of the season – the lineup should run as follows:

    2B Urias (long term lead off… gotta find out)
    1B Hosmer (left/right matchups still matter)
    3B Machado (best hitter/similar ABs as 2hole)
    RF Cordero (1HR per14 ABs/5 tool/find out)
    LF Myers (power/RBI AND 2nd leadoff ability)
    SS Tatis, Jr. (By default/fits too though)
    C Hedges/Mejia (not a true platoon yet)
    CF Margot (elite defense/Gotta find out with/ABs)

    Renfroe and Reyes are nice players who fit DH/AL profiles. We’re starving for a left handed bat to balance the lineup unless Mejia profiles as an outfielder (not my hope) Hosmer only non-righty profile in infield, and Tatis isn’t going anywhere, so either a lefty/switch 2B is acquired to replace Urias or it must be an outfielder. If the three batter minimum doesn’t get overturned (probable), balance matters. Renfroe and Reyes sat for “tiredness” recently. I deduce they were nearly in a deal (Indians?) for these reasons. No inside info.

    We’re closer, but Kinsler and Reyes aren’t long-term complete players fit for championship runs. Renfroe can be, but he hasn’t proven the ability to hit righties. Unless (my personal plan would not follow this for now) Cordero plays CF when Renfroe plays right and RF when Margot is in center or Myers is traded, Renfroe is not a better option in a right heavy lineup despite his awesome power.

    Kinsler had a fire Spring. I wish he hadn’t been acquired though I have always liked him and root for him. It just doesn’t fit with Machado in fold now. We need a Villar-type who can play SS now and allow Urias to settle in at 2B like Machado is at third.

    Great, different problems to have! I really appreciate the organization and staff efforts to build a monster in the West! Go Padres! Enjoy the season!

  2. If Andy Green uses a lineup that give more ABs over the season to Hosmer than to Machado he should be fired.
    Also, your slotting Myers in to play CF is absurd.
    2B Kinsler
    3B Machado
    LF Myers
    1B Hosmer
    RF Reyes
    SS Urias
    C Hedges
    CF Margot

      1. That’s like saying, (take your pick…..) “___________ (Trump; Obama; Bush; Clinton; etc) should be president re-elected because they were president before.” He should bat 8th, 7th at best. He should be known as RK (rally-killer). Better to kill a rally later in the lineup, than when your best hitters are coming up.

        1. Well you should tell Andy Green that then because it aint happening. He will play lots of CF and bat in the middle of the lineup this season.

  3. Once Reyes has the same numbers in close to 1000 PA’s then I will say he is legit. He also has issues against RHP. I don’t want Myers to play at all, much less be a black hole in the 4 spot in the order. I would bat Reyes vs. LHP and Renfroe vs. RHP. If Cordero gets back to form he showed briefly last season before the injury then he might get some 4 hole AB’s.

    You didn’t make any adjustments for LHP/RHP. Garcia will get some AB’s against RHP.

    1. I do not believe there is an optimal offensive lineup where Garcia would be the starter. He would have to replace Kinsler, Urias or Machado. He is a bench player, nothing more.

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