Wednesday, April 15, 2009

O Cito My Cito

Look, this isn't even about pinch hitting. To me, it's about mixed messages. Of course Cito is a master motivator, as Wilner points out. I'm not here to question his in-game decision making, not just yet anyway. For me, it starts and ends with the lineup.

Cito is, and always has been a "roles guy." I touched on this at the end of last year, admitting that while I'm not 100% comfortable with his "go get'em tiger!" attitude, the results can be difficult to argue.

Ahhh, results. Presumably they're what keeps the batting order set in stone. Scoots is off to a good start, leave him in there to ride it out. Adam Lind and Cito are totes BFF, why let his mind wander in the field. Travis Snider is a rookie that must be brought along slowly, so on the bench he'll sit against lefties. I get it. But why not shake up the order, just to see what happens? Maybe let Wells DH for a day, maybe slot the hot bat of Lind between Wells and Rios?

This isn't new for Cito, who's WAMCO days are the stuff of legend. Thanks to Baseball Reference, I learned how frighteningly accurate the legend is. I looked a few successful teams: Cito's WS Champion teams, the 116 win Mariners under old school Lou, the 2002 Yankees that avoided injury and won 103 games with the petrified Joe Torre growing into the bench. For the sake of bludgeoning home my point, I looked at Cito's 1995/1996 Blue Jays teams that lost far more often than they won. How often did they use the same lineup? How many times did they use a given lineup? The results are quite something.

TeamTotal Batting OrdersMost Frequent Lineup Uses2nd Most Frequent Lineup Uses3rd Most Frequent Lineup Uses
1992 Blue Jays (96-66)58161515
1993 Blue Jays (95-67)71201312
2001 Mariners (116-46)115544
2002 Yankees (103-58)108966
1995 Blue Jays (56-88)822097

To throw fuel on a fire of my own creation; the only difference between Cito's A lineup in 1992 and his B lineup is Manny Lee in place of Alfredo Griffin. 31 games with a nearly identical lineup! Cito is obviously a man you can set your watch by. This little chart proves little, other than you can win with the same lineup and you can win with a variety of lineups. Though trotting the same 9 guys in the same order 20 times when you're losing 2 out of 3 games seems counterintuitive.

But why slavishly adhere to "sending the right message" when they're coming out so mixed? If I'm Adam Lind (or his agent, more accurately), I'm officially concerned with my client's long-term earning potential. A 25 year old DH that wouldn't be classed as a "bad body" is incapable of playing the field? In today's holistic baseball society, that won't fly. Not wanting to mess with a hitter's hot streak only applies when the hitter isn't a pet project? Are we really to believe these professional athletes, who have been playing baseball their entire lives, can't cope with the uncertainly of their position in the batting order? So much so that it effects their performance on the field? I should hope not.

Tinfoil Hat Update: After digging around a bit more on BR, I've come up with a conspiracy theory worthy of the Patrick Ewing Draft Lottery. Cito's best season as a player came in 1970, when he hit 29 home runs with an OPS+ of 144. That season Cito hit from the number 3 spot 133 times! He never again approached that level of power nor that consistency in the lineup. He blames never matching his career season on a constantly moving lineup! Conspiracy! Playoffs!! Mental Health Issues!


  1. I'm still trying to figure out when Cito scrapped the plan of alternating Snider and Lind in LF. Maybe when Ricciardi told him that Lind's ultimate future was at first base?

  2. I get what your saying but is has there been a study showcasing the success of flipping around a lineup on a consistent basis?

    On other years I can understand changing lineups but these Blue Jays are short on depth. It may also be a little early in terms of sample size to be changing things around for match-up purposes.

    With that said I'll contradict my above statement and admit that I'd throw Lind in the four hole until he cools off.

    Just for interests sake, do you have the number of lineups used under Gibby?

  3. I don't know that there is a proper study done. I'm simply suggesting that it's more unusual than right or wrong.

    2007 Jays used 131 different lineups. Gibby used his favorite lineup 7 times. In all, 9 different guys lead off (because they didn't and still don't have a true leadoff guy). The steadiest spot in the lineup was 3 - only 6 different guys started the game in the hole.

  4. That's a lot of wacky turnover nonsense on the '07 Jays... I kinda like the idea of keeping everything more or less the same through the course of the season.

    Some of you may wish to stop reading now, you've been warned.

    It's not all that different from hockey. (See??!!) I have no idea if there are any kind of records kept about line-juggling but if there were I'm sure you would find that teams who roll consistent line combinations are frequently the most consistent and successful teams. Ok, let me have it hockey haters!

    Than again, if a team (in any sport) is keeping its lineup virtually the same that indicates a low number of injuries to starting players. Fewer injuries obviously has an inverse correlation with more wins so let's not get to carried away with the concept that keeping the same lineup translates into more wins.

    But that Cito Conspiracy is an intriguing one... 29 ding dongs!


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