Failure is a fantastic motivator. That might be taken badly, but it's true. Everyone fails, and when you fail at something you really care about you tend to learn a lesson and, going forward, may try things differently. Of course, the potential to lose your job also means you're more likely to go outside of your own tool box in order to achieve the results expected of you. In the case of Ron Gardenhire and batting Joe Mauer second, you would think that motivation from one of those two factors is more likely to have swayed his decision making than any statistical argument.
At least that's what you'd think if you didn't hear Gardenhire say that he wanted to "ambush" the opposition with high on-base percentage players at the top of the order.
On Thursday over at TwinsBaseball.com we saw what was, at the time, considered to be the most likely version of the Opening Day lineup. On the left is that lineup, and on the right is what seems to be Gardy's new batting order.
|1||Aaron Hicks||CF||Aaron Hicks||CF|
|2||Brian Dozier||2B||Joe Muaer||C|
|3||Joe Mauer||C||Josh Willingham||LF|
|4||Josh Willingham||LF||Justin Morneau||1B|
|5||Justin Morneau||1B||Ryan Doumit||DH|
|6||Ryan Doumit||DH||Chris Parmelee||RF|
|7||Chris Parmelee||RF||Trevor Plouffe||3B|
|8||Trevor Plouffe||3B||Brian Dozier||2B|
|9||Pedro Florimon||SS||Pedro Florimon||SS|
Moving Mauer up likely slides Dozier into the eight hole, sliding Willingham through Plouffe up a spot and keeping Florimon batting ninth. The lineup on the left would score 4.7 runs per game, which comes to 761 runs over the course of a full 162-game season (according to Baseball Musing's lineup analysis tool), while the one on the right would score about 4.8 runs per game (or 777 runs). Assuming an extra ten runs per season would account for one additional win, moving Mauer to second in this order theoretically gives the Twins an extra one or two victories.
Baseball Musing's lineup analysis tool uses just two components: on-base average and slugging percentage. It's worth noting that I plugged in ZIPS projections for Hicks, Dozier, Parmelee, Plouffe and Florimon. For Mauer, Willingham, Morneau and Doumit I plugged in career averages. ZIPS projections are notorious for appearing pessimistic, but this is how I came to run estimate totals.
Based on the numbers I plugged in, the Twins' optimal lineup would score nearly 4.9 runs per game (794 runs per season): Mauer, Willingham, Parmelee, Morneau, Doumit, Plouffe, Dozier, Florimon, Hicks. It's easy to see how a better lineup could be worth three extra wins, but the limitations of this kind of projection are many.
Regardless, moving Mauer up to second in the batting order is a good idea and it's good to see Gardenhire go outside the box. While it won't make a big difference in the fortunes of the season as a whole, it does make the team better and it should make the offense more competitive in the long run.