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Prelude to Postseason Production

In August, the team averaged 4.46 runs per game, a total that is just about league average for the season (4.43) and would place us tied for 8th in the league in runs per game. It’s a bit of a concern that the team, despite its improvements, is still having trouble scoring runs. September’s been a little different (thankfully) as the team, including last night, is averaging 5.3 runs per game. That’s not to say that they’ll keep it up in the postseason, of course, especially considering the competition we’ve played for most of the month, but it’s nice to see what the offense is capable of once it gets going. The problem is that it’s still an offense that’s driven by our #3, #4, and #5 hitters.

Pujols and Holliday have picked it up in September but they were our best hitters in August as well. The main difference between the 2 months has been the hitting of Ryan Ludwick. Take a look:

Aug. wOBA Sept. wOBA
Pujols .459 .595
Holliday .391 .513
Ludwick .271 .494
Ryan .358 .334
Molina .335 .396
Lugo .320 .421
Rasmus .318 .288
DeRosa .317 .257
Schumaker .316 .305

The major improvement by Ludwick, and unsustainable production from Pujols and Holliday, mask the poor months that DeRosa and Schumaker have had. When the leadoff hitter’s unable to reach base, you’re going to have a hard time scoring runs but another problem is the fact that Brendan Ryan’s been in the 2 hole 14 times over the last 6 weeks. Now, I’ve got no problem w/ him batting first or 2nd against lefties. He’s hit them fairly well for his career. That’s not true, however, for his production against righties. For his career, his splits against righties are..265/.314/.371.

Tony’s tried a lot of guys in the 2 hole this year, w/ Rasmus getting the most opportunities w/ 292 PAs in that spot. Though his OPS is .776 in those 292 PAs, there’s a good argument to be made that perhaps he doesn’t belong in that spot. Still, that .776 OPS is higher than Ryan’s this year – in the 2 hole or not. The real problem, of course, is that Tony’s married to Pujols, Holliday, and Ludwick in the 3, 4, and 5 spots. Lugo in the 2 hole is a good idea if he’s going to use Ryan to lead off against lefties but I’d rather see Holliday or Pujols in the 2 hole w/ the other batting 4th. I’m basing that on Sky Kalkman’s tutorial on optimizing a lineup based on The Book.

Our best hitters ought to be hitting 1st, 2nd, and 4th and, since I like Pujols hitting in the first inning (as Tony does, btw) I’d like to see Pujols 2nd and Holliday 4th. Bat Ludwick 5th and Rasmus 3rd maybe. We could use DeRosa in the 3 hole as well. Nevertheless, getting creative w/ the batting order isn’t going to cure the problems we had in August if Ludwick fails to hit in the postseason. If Ludwick isn’t hitting, teams will just walk Pujols repeatedly (they may do that anyway) and take their chances w/ Holliday. As I’ve said myriad times, I welcome the walks to Pujols since it almost always increases our chances of scoring more runs but that means that Holliday and Ludwick are going to have to come through.