People have wildly differing viewpoints on batting lineups, especially when going into the postseason. Should the manager stick with who got him there? Go with the hot hand? Play the platoon splits? Maximize offense while eschewing defense or vice versa? Veteraniness/playoff experience/clutchness/chemistry?
Here are the best lineups for the Rockies in the upcoming series, based on a few different metrics that will satisfy several schools of line-up construction thought:
Wins Above Replacement (WAR): Due to the fact that WAR is a counting value stat, players with more PAs have a greater chance of ending up here. Batting order placement is partially determined by their Batting Runs Above Average. For comparison's sake I've ranked the both the Rockies' and Phillies' lineups. All data from FanGraphs.
Gonzalez CF (2.3 WAR, 9.4 BRAA, .378 wOBA)
Smith LF (2.7, 13.1, .383)
Helton 1B (3.3, 26.7, .392)
Tulowitzki SS (5.4, 26.6, .393)
Hawpe RF (1.4, 20.6, .384)
Iannetta C (2.0, 1.0, .346)
Stewart 3B (1.2, -2.1, .337)
Barmes 2B (1.7, -15.3, .312)
Victorino CF (3.2 WAR, 12.6 BRAA, .354)
Werth RF (4.5, 27.8, .382)
Utley 2B (7.6, 39.6, .402)
Howard 1B (5.0, 35.7, .393)
Ibanez LF (4.1, 21.9, .379)
Ruiz C (2.2, 1.5, .337)
Rollins SS (2.6, -9.9, .316)
Feliz 3B (1.3, -15.4, .302)
Join me after the jump to figure out what this means, look at which Rockies have the best LHP splits, and which Rockies come into the postseason on a hot streak...
1. The Phillies have a healthy lead in hitting WAR (30.5 to 20) and BRAA (113.8 to 80). That lineup is a tough one.
2. However, beyond Chase Utley, the Rockies match up well with the Phillies in the batter's box.
Looking at this from a batting order standpoint, Gonzalez equals or trumps Victorino (especially considering Carlos' 377 fewer PAs). Werth beats Smith (again, if Smith had more playing time he'd probably have a higher WAR/BRAA and likely a lower wOBA), though not by as much as many would think. Utley is much better than Helton in the three hole, while Tulo matches up pretty evenly with Howard as does Hawpe with Ibanez (they're almost identical hitting-wise, actually). Iannetta and Ruiz are a push, Stewart beats Rollins, and Barmes is equal to if not better than Feliz.
3. The Rockies lineup probably won't happen, especially against left-handed pitchers (which we just happen to be facing) given the fact that the most talented (and best performing) players haven't always played this year. Case in point, Ryan Spilborghs has more PAs than Seth Smith.
Tracy won't play Smith vs. lefties and often will take out either CarGo or Hawpe. He will often play Garrett Atkins for Stewart and Yorvit Torrealba for Iannetta. Some of these decisions will pay off occasionally, but often they do not. Playing inferior players leads to inferior results.
4. The Phillies lineup won't appear like that either (though they will use basically the same players), as Manuel will probably stick Rollins near the top of the order, but it could happen.
The Phillies will likely keep the same-ish lineup throughout the series regardless of pitcher handedness.
The Best Rockies Line-up Against Left-handed Pitching
For this, I used the vs. LHP splits found on Baseball Reference for Rockies that had more than 60 PAs (15 games' worth of action) against lefties. Again, these are performance-based results from this year. Here's the best batting lineup using that data:
Gonzalez RF (.276 BA / .343 OBP / .466 SLG)
Fowler CF (.321 / .377 / .482)
Iannetta C (.296 / .406 / .580)
Tulowitzki SS (.269 / .382 / .519)
Smith LF (.259 / .368 / .500)
Helton 1B (.311 / .369 / .372)
Atkins 3B (.268 / .363 / .428)
Barmes 2B (.245 / .314 / .496)
1. Chris Iannetta, if nothing else, should be playing against southpaws. He's been the best hitter on the team against lefties (154 OPS+!!!) this year.
2. Smith, Fowler, and Gonzalez provide the Rockies' best LHP-hitting and defensive outfield (UZR be damned). How many times has this trio started a game (any game, not just against a lefty)? Zero.
3. Atkins playing in this series wouldn't be the worst thing ever, but Ian Stewart's defense still probably makes him more valuable.
4. Helton has the least power in that line-up against lefties. He's basically a slow singles/OBP hitter at this point.
5. The team OPS against lefties this year is .765--not too shabby. All of the projected line-up except for Helton betters that number.
What is the "Hottest Rockies Lineup?
Those Rockies, they're so hot right now! Here is the best line-up from September on (by wOBA, which does an excellent job of combining OBP and SLG) of Rockies that had at least 40 PAs (ten games' worth of action) during the stretch run:
Gonzalez CF (.374 wOBA)
Smith LF (.367)
Helton 1B (.382)
Tulowitzki SS (.454)
Hawpe RF (.374)
Stewart 3B (.345)
Torrealba C (.331)
Young Jr. 2B (.293)
1. Tulowitzki has been HOT down the stretch. As if you didn't already know that.
2. Don't let that .208 September batting average fool you. Hawpe has regained his stroke further down in the order with a nice power streak at the end of the year.
3. Any way you slice it, the Rockies have an offensive sinkhole at second base, with Barmes' .283 wOBA not making the cut.
4. Neither Dexter Fowler (.272) nor Ryan Spilborghs (.224) have performed well enough down the stretch to start. That is, if you use the "hotness" metric for setting your starting lineup.
5. Jason Giambi (.445 wOBA in 31 PAs) is a true ace in the hole off the bench.
6. Torrealba might be dialed in right now (.310 average, 14 RBIs September on), but it's mostly a mirage.
Of his 27 hits, only 7 have gone for extra bases. His K/BB ratio (19-7) is greater than Stewart's (32-13) and his BABIP is unsustainable (.397). Torrealba will start because of his "hotness" and his "clutchiness" and his "veteraniness", but Torrealba is the wrong choice for this series in particular.
Why? Well for one thing this year he has a line of .220 / .288 / .322 against lefties. Another is that he has thrown out only 8 of 49 runners (14%), which will be bad against a Philadelphia team that has swiped 119 bags this year.
Meanwhile, Chris Iannetta didn't get enough PAs to qualify (he had 27, and that's with two starts due to Torrealba's injury), but he did do quite a bit with them, putting up a .540 wOBA in September. He's been the superior player over the course of the season and he's the superior player right now.
Now my method of setting the line-up is a hybrid that uses the above metrics. This is who I want to start on Wednesday for Colorado against the Phillies:
What, start Garrett Atkins? I've been taking crazy pills and I believe after looking at the numbers that this is one of the few matchups where Atkins would be a better play over Stewart. I'm also weighting Fowler's season-long brilliance against lefties higher than Brad Hawpe's recent hot performance.