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Making the case for Jonathan Lucroy to be moved up to second in the lineup again


The stache

During last night's game thread, I made a comment that Rickie Weeks needed to be moved down in the lineup. Obviously, with that game thread being archived, the discussion there will not continue. So, I would like to start a new discussion on the merits of moving Jonathan Lucroy back up to the #2 spot in the lineup.

 

With Ryan Braun having another MVP-caliber season, Aramis Ramirez leading the NL in extra base hits, and Corey Hart hitting home runs, the meat of our lineup is producing. In fact, the NL leaders in extra base hits currently reads:

 

Ramirez, Milwaukee 65 (43 doubles, 2 triples, 20 home runs)

Braun, Milwaukee 64 (26 doubles, 3 triples, 35 home runs)

Bruce, Cincinnati 61 (31 doubles, 3 triples, 27 home runs)

Hart, Milwaukee 59 (31 doubles, 4 triples, 24 home runs)

 

That's a whopping 188 extra base hits from the 3-4-5 portion of the lineup. Clearly the most productive trio in the National League. Yet we're 5 games below .500 still (mainly due to our bullpen).

 

I question having Rickie Weeks in the #2 spot in the lineup right now, as I believe we are leaving potential runs off the board. Career on base percentage, and OBP for the season were brought up when I mentioned Weeks was 5 for his last 38. Valid discussion points, of course. But I tend to look at current trends, and not numbers from a couple years ago, or even several months ago.

 

Here are Rickie's numbers for the last twenty games:

 

http://img841.imageshack.us/img841/540/weeks8712to82812.png

 

Baseball reference has not yet updated for last night's game. Rickie's average is .224 over the last 20 games. Slightly higher than his season average. His on base percentage over this period is only .298. And the outs he's making are still strike outs. 20 strikeouts in 76 Abs (26.32%). Some outs can be productive in moving a runner up. A strike out is never productive.

 

Compare these numbers to those of Jonathan Lucroy. Over the last 20 games (all since coming back off the DL), and you'll see that Lucroy is a better option, at least for the time being.

 

http://img600.imageshack.us/img600/7343/lucroy8712to82812.png

 

Jonathan is hitting .305 with a .373 OBP and a .505 SLG over the last 20 games, and has struck out 7 times in 59 at bats (11.86%). Lucroy has an .882 OPS. Compare that to Rickie's .640 OPS.

 

Nori Aoki, who is batting .282 with a .341 OBP (and 8 stolen bases in 11 tries) in his last twenty games might benefit as well, as Lucroy makes more consistent contact. Getting him into scoring position might get us a few more runs a week, and with our bullpen, that can't be a bad thing.

 

Wouldn't it be prudent to move Jonathan back to the #2 spot for the time being, at least until Rickie can get back on track?

There are three things America will be known for 2000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music and baseball. They're the three most beautifully designed things this culture has ever produced. Gerald Early
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If you keep moving players around in the lineup whenever they have 40 bad at bats you're going to have a lineup that's constantly changing and then fans complain that the manager isn't putting out a consistent lineup.

 

And Lucroy's career BB% is 6.4. His OBP is going to be tied a lot to his batting average, much more so than Weeks. So if Lucroy has a streak of games where he goes say 8 for 40, his OBP will likely struggle to break .250.

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Plus, Rickie had some really bad luck last night.

 

He really hit the ball hard, but with how the Cub's defense was set up, they ended up begin caught. I thought for sure one was a double off the bat.

You knew me as Myday2001.

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So, we should have a guy that's not getting on base batting second, and a guy that is getting on base much lower in the lineup where nobody will drive him in, because he might slump? Forget numbers, that just doesn't make sense logically.

 

Weeks is on a pace for 571 at bats, and 74 runs. That's terrible considering who's batting behind him. With 3 of the top 4 guys in the NL in extra base hits, he's not crossing the plate. He's not getting it done, I'm sorry. Weeks has 225 plate appearances batting first or second in the lineup. He's scored twice on Braun home runs. Twice. Rickie Weeks is batting .140 this season when he's second in the lineup. He has a .265 OBP, and a .210 SLG. Let me highlight this. Batting second in 2012, Rickie Weeks has a .475 OPS in 117 plate appearances. He's batting .176 as a leadoff hitter (108 plate appearances). Batting sixth, where I think he belongs, he's batting .274 in 225 plate appearances.

 

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=weeksri01&year=2012&t=b

 

Why do people keep throwing up career numbers? This Rickie Weeks on the field in 2012 is nowhere near the same player that was an MVP candidate before the ankle injury any more than this is the same Jonathan Lucroy that hit .253 as a rookie in 2010. Players improve, and players slip. Right now, Rickie Weeks has no business batting second in the lineup. None.

There are three things America will be known for 2000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music and baseball. They're the three most beautifully designed things this culture has ever produced. Gerald Early
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Your whole argument is based on a small sample.

 

Weeks is on a pace for 571 at bats, and 74 runs. That's terrible considering who's batting behind him.

Considering the time he spent batting 6th with Isturis, the pitcher and whomever was the catcher batting behind him I think 74 runs is pretty good.

 

Why do people keep throwing up career numbers?

Because his career numbers are a better indicator of what to expect going forward than what he has done just this year.

Fan is short for fanatic.

I blame Wang.

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Weeks is on a pace for 571 at bats, and 74 runs. That's terrible considering who's batting behind him. Batting sixth, where I think he belongs, he's batting .274 in 225 plate appearances.

 

Contradiction overload. You say he's not scoring enough runs and then post stats that say over half of his at bats this season have come before players like Cody Ransom, Cesar Izturis, Jeff Bianchi, Martin Maldonado, pitchers and pinch hitters.

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And Lucroy's career BB% is 6.4. His OBP is going to be tied a lot to his batting average, much more so than Weeks. So if Lucroy has a streak of games where he goes say 8 for 40, his OBP will likely struggle to break .250.

 

Yes, his walk rate is low. But most of his career has been in the 8 spot, where you need to be more aggressive at the plate with the pitchers spot behind you. Lucroy is a very good hitter, and would adjust to the 2 spot. I have no doubt he would realize with Braun behind him, he needs to take more walks.

 

Personally, I think other than speed Lucroy is the perfect guy to hit in the 2 spot. Something is going on with Weeks, whether it's injury, his head, who knows. But I don't want someone that streaky in front of Braun.

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Your whole argument is based on a small sample.

 

Weeks is on a pace for 571 at bats, and 74 runs. That's terrible considering who's batting behind him.

Considering the time he spent batting 6th with Isturis, the pitcher and whomever was the catcher batting behind him I think 74 runs is pretty good.

 

Why do people keep throwing up career numbers?

Because his career numbers are a better indicator of what to expect going forward than what he has done just this year.

 

That's what I heard last year when McGehee was struggling. Turned out the trend was a much better indicator than career numbers.

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Yes, his walk rate is low. But most of his career has been in the 8 spot, where you need to be more aggressive at the plate with the pitchers spot behind you. Lucroy is a very good hitter, and would adjust to the 2 spot. I have no doubt he would realize with Braun behind him, he needs to take more walks.

 

He has 26 walks in 497 PAs when batting somewhere in the order other than 8th. That is a BB% of 5.2%.

 

That's what I heard last year when McGehee was struggling. Turned out the trend was a much better indicator than career numbers.

 

McGehee never showed any signs of being a productive player in the minors. He came up to the Majors and had a great season or two that was unexpected. Weeks has much more talent and much better tools and has been a plus performer for longer than McGehee (3 straight seasons of an OPS+ over 120 for Weeks. Yes one of those seasons was cut very short due to an injury). I will always assume a player is likely to perform closer to career numbers than over any individual 20 games.

 

On top of all this, I'm sure someone on this site could find an article stating that batting order has very little effect on runs scored by a team. If we want to start talking about the ideal batting order, let's start with the pitcher batting 8th and someone like Weeks/Lucroy/Segura batting 9th.

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Career on base percentage, and OBP for the season were brought up when I mentioned Weeks was 5 for his last 38. Valid discussion points, of course. But I tend to look at current trends, and not numbers from a couple years ago, or even several months ago.

 

"Current trends" is largely statistical noise, so if you are considering that to any meaningful degree, your expectations for that player are going to be distorted. Unless a slump is the result of an injury, I ignore short term fluctuation in performance completely. Comprehensive studies shows us that it is the correct thing to do. High school level math even.

 

I don't rely on just career numbers but that is a good place to start, especially when the alternative being offered is a selected sample of 38 PA. The best way to start the discussion is to simply look at projections, however. I say start because I don't mean to suggest there is nothing else to consider. Projections typically consider the last 3-4 years of production weighing the more recent seasons more greater. Here are the ZiPS updated projections for Weeks and Lucroy:

 

Weeks: .238/.333/.436

Lucroy: .268/.330 /.415

 

No crystal ball here of course, but it's an objective way to look at all the data. Now, if you think Lucroy has established a much higher level of expected performance based on his excellent 238 PA this year, you are going to think that projection for him is bogus. I think that projection (and Weeks') is reasonable. And if they really are that similar, I would rather have a little more speed and power at the top of the lineup (power at the top because he'll get more AB up there).

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Weeks doesn't put a lot of strikes thrown to him in play relative to most hitters. When you do that, you are going to get deeper in counts which means more walks but also more strikeouts. Whoever bats in front of Braun is likely to get thrown a fairly high percentage of strikes. The Brewers might actually be better off with the type of hitter that can do more consistent damage on those type pitches.
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Weeks's Z-Contact% is a little below league-avg. on his career (roughly 3% below lg-avg.). Link. So JB's general statement is false. However, specific to this discussion, Lucroy's Z-Contact% on his career is appx. 8 percentage points higher than Weeks's.

 

I'm actually pretty convinced that Lucroy has blossomed into a hitter that you can pencil in for about a .280 AVG/.350 OBP going forward (with a higher ceiling than just that), but there's just nothing worth complaining about, at this point in 2012, in terms of Weeks & Luc in the batting order as long as they're not out of the top 6 spots.

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"Whoever bats in front of Braun is likely to get thrown a fairly high percentage of strikes."

 

Is the fact of fan fiction? I know the theory of protection is pretty much false, but I am unsure on actual strike percentage.

 

I think it's largely a myth. The people who repeat it here have never provided a shred of evidence to support it, at least. I recall seeing a table showing strikes thrown as a function of batting order. I thought #2 guys saw something like an extra strike every 8 AB, or something like that. Whatever the numbers were, I recall it being very small.

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hitting 5th today

Posted: July 10, 2014, 12:30 AM

PrinceFielderx1 Said:

If the Brewers don't win the division I should be banned. However, they will.

 

Last visited: September 03, 2014, 7:10 PM

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Weeks has now reached base in 4 consecutive PA, including three hits so far today Is that a new trend?

 

I don't think Lucroy would be a bad option to bat 2nd, compared to Weeks. I just think your analysis does a poor job of supporting it. You came up with a conclusion and are now simply cherry picking whatever data you think supports it. I don't care about Braun's RBI numbers or 20 game splits. I don't care what Weeks has batted this year in certain lineup positions. I want to know what rate stats we would expect from both players going forward based on whatever relevant data is available. Everything else takes care of itself.

 

EDIT: Weeks is now 4 for 4 today and was reached base on 5 consecutive PA's. Let's look at the trend from those last 5 PA's:

 

1.000/1.000/1.250/2.250

 

Perhaps the real question should be, is it time for Weeks to bat lead off? ;)

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That's what I heard last year when McGehee was struggling. Turned out the trend was a much better indicator than career numbers.

If you read this forum last year you also heard many people on the opposite side that said McGehee's 2009-2010 stats were a mirage based on his MiLB numbers.

Fan is short for fanatic.

I blame Wang.

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And Lucroy is 3 for 5 with 7 RBI. What's your point? That Weeks, based on one game, is now suddenly a better option at second in the lineup?
There are three things America will be known for 2000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music and baseball. They're the three most beautifully designed things this culture has ever produced. Gerald Early
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Weeks is on a pace for 571 at bats, and 74 runs. That's terrible considering who's batting behind him. Batting sixth, where I think he belongs, he's batting .274 in 225 plate appearances.

 

Contradiction overload. You say he's not scoring enough runs and then post stats that say over half of his at bats this season have come before players like Cody Ransom, Cesar Izturis, Jeff Bianchi, Martin Maldonado, pitchers and pinch hitters.

 

It's hardly a contradiction. Want to eliminate the stats from when he's batting sixth, and concentrate on his productivity when he's batting leadoff or second only?

 

225 plate appearances. 22 runs

 

That breaks down to approximately 59 runs scored when batting in the top two positions. Much better. Not. He's actually more productive when he's batting sixth:

 

225 plate appearances. 30 runs scored. That breaks down to 80 runs scored.

There are three things America will be known for 2000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music and baseball. They're the three most beautifully designed things this culture has ever produced. Gerald Early
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Weeks is on a pace for 571 at bats, and 74 runs. That's terrible considering who's batting behind him. Batting sixth, where I think he belongs, he's batting .274 in 225 plate appearances.

 

Contradiction overload. You say he's not scoring enough runs and then post stats that say over half of his at bats this season have come before players like Cody Ransom, Cesar Izturis, Jeff Bianchi, Martin Maldonado, pitchers and pinch hitters.

 

It's hardly a contradiction. Want to eliminate the stats from when he's batting sixth, and concentrate on his productivity when he's batting leadoff or second only?

Neither actually. When you start splitting up stats they become less and less useful for predicting future production and that is what most people care about(or should at least).

 

If you are going to continue using small samples there is nowhere for this discussion to go.

Fan is short for fanatic.

I blame Wang.

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I'm not using a small sample size. I'm using almost a full season's worth of statistics. Weeks, outside of today's great performance, has been deplorable. And it pains me saying that, as a big Weeks fan. But how much more of a sample size do you need? Seriously? We can't determine that Lucroy is a better option batting second right now than Rickie is until what, a whole season has gone bye, minimum? I'm sorry--nothing personal--but that's absurd.

 

Batting in the top two spots in the order, Weeks has been awful. Batting in the sixth spot, Rickie has put up numbers closer to his career norms. I don't know why that is, but it's obviously not my job to figure that out. All I know is that in the top part of the order, Rickie hasn't played well, and in the bottom third, he's played considerably better.

 

Career numbers are useful for for some things, but at some point you have to understand that a player's stats from three years ago are not indicative of the player that's on the field. Lucroy is a better hitter now than he was as a rookie. It's only natural for a player to improve as he's been in the league more, and understands the nuances of the game better. Rickie suffered a catastrophic injury towards the end of last season, and since coming back, he's not the same player. I give the guy all the credit in the world for going out there, and playing in pain, and I know he's frustrated by his play. Rickie is a man, and as such, you're not going to hear him complaining about his own play. He's not going to blame the ankle. But as a manager, Ron Roenicke should be putting together the lineup that gives us the best chance to win. And right now, Jonathan Lucroy is getting on base a lot more than Rickie Weeks. As such, he'd provide more run scoring opportunities. And pulling up what Weeks and Lucroy did two years ago as continued justification on the current lineup structure is poor management.

 

Now, if Rickie continues this improved play that we saw today (obviously he won't go 5 for 5 every day), then I have no problem moving him back up.

There are three things America will be known for 2000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music and baseball. They're the three most beautifully designed things this culture has ever produced. Gerald Early
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Small sample analysis has a place, like in the play offs where there isn't time for stats to normalize, 1 win or loss can swing an entire series.

 

If we're talking about the rest of this season does it really matter where people bat? I'm more interested in what the inexperienced players are doing more so than line-up or bullpen minutia... I simply could care less about those issues. Extra wins only push the Brewers further down the draft board at this point, I haven't cared about wins and losses since the Greinke trade... I do care about inexperienced players getting enough playing time to learn on the big stage.

 

I realize there are people including my own father who desperately want the Brewers to get back to .500 this season, and I can see a legitimate argument that turning the 2012 season around with young players on the roster sets up momentum going into next year. However, I'd rather have a top 10 draft pick than a .500 season. Seid may well squander the pick, and there is noise in the industry about the possibility of him being replaced, but we desperately need to build the farm system back into a viable talent pool. Melvin may well just trade away all the talent again... I don't know, but I do know that I'm not down with an aging MLB roster and little talent in the system behind it.

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."

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"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something."

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And Lucroy is 3 for 5 with 7 RBI. What's your point? That Weeks, based on one game, is now suddenly a better option at second in the lineup?

 

Wow. My point should be painfully obvious; "analyzing" small samples for "trends" is a waste of time.

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