Category Impact: Location, Location, Location
Todd Zola introduces a new series with an initial focus on batting order and production.
Enough pontificating. It's time to make an impact. Don't worry, I'll still pontificate from time to time but the season has begun; these games count.
Starting today and then every Thursday and Sunday throughout the course of the regular season, I'll be highlighting under-the-radar players with the potential to make a huge category impact the next few games. You don't need me to tell you to start Miguel Cabrera or Andrew McCutchen. The focus will be on match-up type players in mixed leagues and fringe players in deeper single league formats (AL and NL only).
In April, I'll pick out a couple of categories to feature each posting and explain what to look for then provide examples from the ensuing contests, By the time we have worked our way through all the categories, enough of a sample will be available so we can then look at specific player trends and weave that into the more general analysis to identify players with the potential to turn it around and make an impact within certain categories.
Sound like a plan? Excellent.
If you're at all familiar with my work and style, you know I love to answer questions. If you post a question pertaining directly to the day's subject in the comments, I promise to do my best to address it so you'll have the best opportunity to adjust your lineups accordingly.
And with that as a background, let's kick off this new feature by discussing the categories of runs and RBI.
While talent is obviously a driving force behind run production (either scoring or knocking in a teammate), location in the batting order is also paramount. Let’s take a look at this table, displaying the previous three-year averages for plate appearances, runs and RBI per spot in the batting order.
While these results may seem intuitively obvious, it’s always nice when facts back up our assumptions since as we’ll learn in future, this isn’t always the case.
- The higher a player hits in the order, the more run-scoring chances he’ll enjoy.
- The best RBI spots are 3-4-5
Location, location, location.
With only a handful of games under the belt, it’s not possible to analyze player trends. I’m pretty certain Emilio Bonifacio won’t hit over .700 and Alejandro De Aza won’t lead the league in dingers. But something that may be actionable this early in the season is players hitting in surprising spots in the batting order. Even if they don’t last, you can take advantage of current batting orders to get an early season boost in runs and RBI.
Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels: Calhoun and his solid on-base-percentage open the campaign hitting lead-off. The Halos travel to Houston for a three-game series in hitter-friendly Minute Maid Field. The troika of opposing arms, Lucas Harrell, Dallas Keuchel and Scott Feldman are far from daunting. With Mike Trout and an apparently healthy Albert Pujols following him, Calhoun has the chance to notch a few runs this weekend.
Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies: In 2013, Cuddyer spent most of his time batting clean-up or fifth. This season he has hit from the two-hole which should afford him several more runs though at the expense of some RBI. Colorado has a weekend set at home against the depleted Arizona Diamondback starters and bullpen. The Coors Field scoreboard should be quite active this weekend.
Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds: OK, both Cuddyer and Phillips are no doubt in your lineup and will be so regardless where they are situated. But like Cuddyer it is worth noting that early on Phillips has been moved up to the second spot and out of the prime RBI locales.
Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays: Let’s make it three guys hitting second in the order that may not be universally realized. The Rays invite Texas into the Trop for three with Joe Saunders and Nick Martinez working the first two,
Melky Cabrera, Toronto Blue Jays: Cabrera has led off three of the first four games and with Jose Reyes out, he should continue to do so. The Jays are entertaining the Yankees at home this weekend and are always a threat to put up a few crooked numbers in Rogers Center.
Travis Snider, Pittsburgh Pirates: It looks like the Bucs are going with a right-field platoon with Snider the main beneficiary, especially since he’s in the two-hole. Pittsburgh has a tough home series with St. Louis on the weekend docket, but all three scheduled opposing starters are right-handed which means Snider should be a mainstay in right.
Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals: You’re still going to leave him in your lineup but it's worth noting that last season, Desmond hit no lower than sixth, most often fifth with a few games at the top of the order. So far in 2014, he’s already hit seventh once while hitting sixth the rest of the time. This is more of a long-term concern, but if the pattern holds, Desmond would see 20-30 fewer plate appearances than last season.
Casey McGehee, Miami Marlins: Yeah, it’s the Marlins but he’s hitting clean-up and someone has to knock in the runs the Fish do push across. With the Padres in two, the Marlins should score a few more than usual this weekend.
Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks: Guess who’s hitting clean-up for the Snakes? At least for now Prado should have the opportunity to rack up the RBI.
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros: Some feel it is brilliant, some can’t believe it but Atuve is hitting clean-up against righties.
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins: The Twins new first baseman has been moved from an RBI spot up to the two-hole.
Milwaukee Brewers: While they may not have the spare stick sported by other NL teams, Milwaukee travels to Boston meaning they can add an extra bat to their attack this weekend. The DH at bats should be split up but as a whole, the team’s attack is a little better this weekend,
Boston Red Sox: With the added adrenaline of getting their rings, the defending World Series Champions are facing the rather pedestrian staff of the Milwaukee Brewers at friendly Fenway. Something tells me stacking Red Sox in DFS will be a theme this weekend.
Arizona Diamondback: As I will discuss in the future, especially as pertains to DFS, I much prefer home matchups but with Arizona heading into Colorado to face a couple of lefties this weekend, there should be fireworks with a lot of runs scored on both sides this weekend.