On Tuesday, Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly said Rollins would serve as the team’s leadoff hitter, a spot Rollins is used to. He’s spent most of his career hitting leadoff, although last year he was used much more often in the #2 spot because the Phillies had Ben Revere at the top of the lineup. Still, is Rollins the best option for the Dodgers’ leadoff spot?
.242/.336/.411, 2 steals—C Yasmani Grandal
.279/.336/.457, 2 steals—1B Adrian Gonzalez
.283/.330/.408, 10 steals—2B Howie Kendrick
.239/.305/.366, 20 steals—SS Jimmy Rollins
.257/.297/.388, 2 steals—3B Juan Uribe
.275/.316/.407, 17 steals—LF Carl Crawford
.232/.319/.406, 19 steals—CF Joc Pederson
.292/.371/.493, 14 steals—RF Yasiel Puig
Rollins is projected to lead the team in steals, although there are four guys on the team projected for between 14 and 20 steals, so it’s not like Rollins is the only guy with speed. How important is speed at the top of the lineup, though? Let’s look at the traditional lineup construction versus the optimal lineup based on the guidelines of The Book by Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman, and Andy Dolphin:
RF Yasiel Puig .377
1B Adrian Gonzalez .344
C Yasmani Grandal .331
2B Howie Kendrick .324
CF Joc Pederson .323
LF Carl Crawford .318
3B Juan Uribe .301
SS Jimmy Rollins .298
Based on projected wOBA, Rollins is the worst choice for the top of the lineup. Even Juan Uribe, who’s projected for a .297 OBP, is a slightly better option.
So how would the traditional lineup look compared to the optimal lineup?
Ultimately, a team’s lineup doesn’t make a huge difference. The important thing to remember is that each spot down the lineup is a difference of 18 plate appearances over the course of the season. The difference between batting Jimmy Rollins first or seventh is 108 plate appearances. Do you really want to give your worst hitter an additional 108 plate appearances?