2011 Cleveland Indians Lineup by The Book

Last year, Manny Acta made a splash by dropping Grady Sizemore to second in the batting order. This year, he’s considering moving him back to leadoff. Is either the right move? And how should the rest of the lineup look?

The Book, one of the best sabermetric books you can find, did extensive work on lineup construction. Their main conclusion was that lineup order didn’t matter too much, but it can be optimized for marginal gains. The Book’s findings are summarized very well in this Beyond the Boxscore post.

To get the stats for Cleveland’s upcoming season, I used the Cairo Projections, which are described (and available for download) here. The nice thing about version 0.5 of this years Cairos is that they include lefty/righty splits. It uses wOBA, which is decribed in detail in the new Frangraphs library. As you can see, wOBA is scaled to be comparable to batting average, with a .321 wOBA being the league average in 2010.

First, here’s how the Indians lineup should look against lefties. I took the top nine players in terms of wOBA against lefties, and fortunately things worked out nicely in the field.

order name pos wOBA
1 Shin-Soo Choo RF .343
2 Matt LaPorta 1B .351
3 Shelley Duncan LF .332
4 Carlos Santana RF .346
5 Austin Kearns CF .342
6 Jayson Nix 3B .327
7 Asdrubal Cabrera SS .326
8 Travis Hafner DH .326
9 Jason Donald 2B .325

The glaring omission, of course, is Grady Sizemore. Cairo projects Sizemore to have a wOBA of only .309 against lefties. But if you insist on playing him (both in the name of fan interest, and so Kearns doesn’t have to play center), you can remove Hafner from the lineup, DH Duncan, and move Donald up to eighth with Grady batting ninth.

Some other items of note:

  • Everyone in this lineup is projected to hit above a .321 wOBA. That’s nice, but .321 was the average in 2010 against all pitchers. The average against lefties in 2011 may be higher or lower.
  • Indians fans should be especially pleased to see such a nice number for Matt LaPorta, especially after his struggles at the plate these past few years.
  • LaPorta and Santana have very similar numbers, but Santana has a slight edge in power, giving him the fourth spot over LaPorta. While Choo also has very good power, his on base percentage is just too good to put anywhere but first.

Now, the lineup against righthanders. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take just the best nine hitters this time. Michael Brantley and Travis Buck both rated ahead of Jack Hannahan. Brantley, Buck, and Duncan all rated ahead of Nix and Donald as well. But somebody has to play second and third base.

order name pos wOBA
1 Shin-Soo Choo RF .390
2 Carlos Santana C .359
3 Matt LaPorta 1B .332
4 Grady Sizemore CF .363
5 Travis Hafner DH .342
6 Austin Kearns LF .322
7 Asdrubal Cabrera SS .318
8 Jack Hannahan 3B .309
9 Jayson Nix 2B .307

If you don’t think Jack Hannahan is going to break camp with the Tribe, feel free to move Nix up a spot in the order and plug Jason Donald’s .303 wOBA into the nine hole.

Notes on this lineup:

  • Choo blew everyone away in both on base percentage and slugging. But I chose to hit him leadoff, just to give our best hitter as many at bats as possible.
  • Believe it or not, Sizemore is expected to have better slugging numbers than Santana, and Santana better on base numbers than Sizemore. That’s why Grady is hitting fourth and Carlos second.
  • Cabrera, Nix, and Hannahan/Donald will need to be good with the glove to make up for their below-average projections. Other than that, though, this isn’t too bad a lineup.

Finally, for those interested, here are the numbers for a few key players who failed to crack either lineup:

name wOBA vs L vs R
Michael Brantley .310 .291 .316
Travis Buck .306 .288 .312
Luis Valbuena .300 .286 .302
Trevor Crowe .289 .283 .290
Adam Everett .268 .282 .264

This article originally appeared on Kanka’s Sports Page

newest oldest most voted

“As you can see, wOBA is scaled to be comparable to batting average, with a .321 wOBA being the league average in 2010.”

Isn’t it scaled to OBP?

From the Library:
“wOBA is put on the same scale as OBP, so any score that would be a great OBP is also a great wOBA. League-average is typically around .330, although it varies from year to year.”


Also you have Carlos Santana as a RF in the first lineup.

“Carlos Santana RF .346”

Interesting read though…


What are the chances that Jason Kipnis beats out Nix for 2B playing time against RHP?


Nix and Donald are actually slated to play 3B, with Valbuena at 2B. Although I can see Donald playing 2B as well.

Indians assistant GM Mike Chernoff was at SABR Day in Cleveland last weekend. The team still has some faith in Valbuena, but he’ll be on a short leash. Understandably, the team doesn’t want to rush their prospects, but they won’t hold them back if they’re ready for the majors. Chernoff did think Cord Phelps was a little further along than Kipnis, though.

Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson

The rumblings seem to suggest that anything less than an amazing spring training will result in Kipnis remaining in the minors until at least early June. After all, Kipnis is a Super-2 threat and figures to be an above average player while guys like Valbuena, Phelps, Donald, and Nix are more or less fungible.

The Indians also should be doing what they can to build value in Donald/Valbuena. As mentioned, these guys are future backups so it may behoove the Indians to give them a chance to go on a hot streak and then flip them for a B- spec.

Dave P
Dave P

“Other than that, thought, this isn’t too bad a lineup”

It isn’t too good a lineup, either.

I thought LaPorta would have it figured out by now. I watched him a lot at Florida….man among boys.