Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why hit Hundley eighth?

I'm KILLING the ball right now!
One of the recurring themes of this season is a lack of offense.  Or at least a lack of consistent offense.  The other more recent theme (that, mercifully, has been laid to rest) is the 10-game skid and various people ('fans') screaming "The Padres are falling straight out of first place and through the center of the earth!  AAAAA!"

Talk about getting all worked up over a small sample size.  But speaking of a small sample size, last night Nick Hundley hit his second HR of the homestand . . . from the 8-hole.  Which begs the question:  Why is Hundley hitting eighth?

To start the argument, here are the offensive numbers for the main Padre hitters since the start of the losing streak (August 26 thru last night):
  • Hundley:  .375/.375/.792, 2 HR (24 PA)
  • Denorfia:  .214/.290/.321, 0 HR (31 PA)
  • Eckstein:  .184/.256/.184, 0 HR (44 PA)
  • Ludwick:  .200/.256/.225, 0 HR (43 PA)
  • Gonzalez:  .385/.467/.538, 1 HR (45 PA)
  • Tejada:    .214/.233/.429, 3 HR (43 PA)
  • Headley:  .175/.233/.225, 0 HR (43 PA)
  • Venable:  .059/.059/.059, 0 HR (34 PA)
  • Torrealba:  .235/.316/.412, 1 HR (19 PA)
One expects to see a lot of lousy averages after losing 10 of 11, and those numbers are truly horrible.  Other than Adrian Gonzalez, Hundley has been the best hitter on the club over that stretch, yet he and Yorvit are splitting time behind the plate, and he is hitting low in the order.

Based on these numbers, I would rearrange the lineup thusly.
  1. Chris Denorfia
  2. Ryan Ludwick
  3. Adrian Gonzalez
  4. Nick Hundley
  5. Miguel Tejada
  6. David Eckstein
  7. Chase Headley
  8. Pitcher's spot
  9. Will Venable
Gonzalez and Hundley lead the team in OBP right now.  Neither one is a guy you want hitting leadoff based on their speed and/or their power.  So it defaults to the #3 guy right now, Denorfia.  Ludwick has better power potential than Eckstein.  Personally I like him hitting #2; he thrived there with the Cardinals, and it puts him in front of a marquee hitter again in Gonzo.  Gonzalez returns to his customary #3 hole, Hundley is #4 because he's hot.  Tejada hits fifth, again because of power potential over the rest of the candidates.  Eckstein has the highest remaining OBP, so he's sixth, followed by Headley.  Venable is struggling so bad the Padre pitchers are more of a threat right now, so they hit eighth and Will slides into the ninth slot.

That's a major shake-up.  This team hasn't scored more than 5 runs in 10 games, and their last 5-run outburst came well after that game was decided.  If that proposed lineup makes you uncomfortable, fine; let's go with this one:
  1. Denorfia
  2. Eckstein
  3. Gonzalez
  4. Hundley
  5. Tejada
  6. Headley
  7. Ludwick
  8. Pitcher's spot
  9. Venable
Moves Gonzo back to #3, Hundley to #4, Pitcher to #8, and Ludwick/Venable down to #7 and #9, respectively.  A little less radical, but still moves people around based on how they're doing right now.

Again, we have to be careful with small sample sizes - they can be very misleading.  However, Nick Hundley is such a 'shimmering star in the [Padre offensive] firmament' at this moment in history he should not be hitting 8th UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

Move him up, Mr. Black.


  1. Well, the Padres not only stopped the losing streak, they began a winning streak. I wasn't worried!

    Your lineup remedy sounds good, but study after study has shown that lineups don't mean much over the course of the season, a fraction of a win, at most. I'm assuming you're arguing that over a small sample size of games, like a ten game losing streak, it DOES matter. How come?

    Larry Faria
    Ocean Beach

  2. Larry,

    I'd be interested if you could point me to some more info on those lineup studies. My exposure to lineup statistical analysis begins and ends with Tom Tango's 'The Book', where he argues that OBP is a key component to consider when building a lineup. I used that (albeit while taking some liberties) to build the lineups above.

    The Padre offense had been really bad during the now dead losing streak. Since Hundley has hit 2 HR already on the homestand, I started wondering if the Padres wouldn't be better off hitting him higher in the order; he seemed to be one of the few guys on the club swinging the bat well. The small sample size analysis seems to bear that out.

    My thought was to group the hot bats together high in the lineup in an attempt to generate some more offense. Gonzalez and Hundley really stand out right now. We ought not to split them up.

    I know it's a small sample size, and how hot Hundley is depends on where you draw the line to start the sample. Over the course of the season, trying to ride a hot streak doesn't make sense - I completely agree.

    With less than 20% of the season left, we're in small sample size territory; maybe we should try to ride the hot hand. No matter what, it was a fun post to write.

    Thanks for the comment!