Sunday, June 26, 2011

Consistent Change

As I was editing the Twins Official Scorecard this weekend, I checked a fact dug up by Eric Johnson of He claimed:

“The Twins 2011 Opening Day lineup looked like this:


Since Opening Day, that lineup has been on the field exactly one time. And that was on April 7th.”

The seemed a little far-fetched, so I checked it out. Which is where I found out that the truth is even worse.

According to, they didn’t even have those same players in the lineup on 4/7. On 4/7, Thome started over Delmon Young. In fact, they have NEVER started those same players in the starting lineup together since Opening Day – not in any combination.

Now, I imagine that isn’t terribly rare. For instance, if a player from that Opening Day lineup is out for the season with an injury, that would happen. A team would simply plug a new player into that position and roll with that lineup. But injuries have prompted the Twins to take that inconsistency to a whole different level. Through 75 games (that would be through Saturday’s game) the Twins have sported 71 different batting orders.

Read that last sentence again.

I’d love to show you the order that the Twins have used the most, but the truth is that they have NEVER used exactly the same batting order more than twice. And it isn’t just because they are having guys bat in different places in the order. They also haven’t fielded any defensive lineup more than three times all season. The daily lineup tweets are as suspenseful and random as lotto numbers.

The moral of the story? While it’s tempting to shift our criticism to the offseason or the fielding or the starting pitching or the bullpen, the fact remains: the story of the season is injuries. I know writers are tired of writing about it, and the team is tired of talking about it, and readers are tired of reading about it. That’s because this string of bad voodoo has gone on forever.

But its length just compounds its impact. Just because we have run out of adjectives beyond “ridiculous” to describe its effect, doesn't make it any less important.


Ted said...

But then everybody doesn't get to reasonably blame and complain about everything. What's the fun of watching?

Serious note: great research. Mind-fuck.

frightwig said...
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frightwig said...

For the sake of context, how many different lineups have each of the other AL Central clubs used this season?

No doubt, the Twins have had several injuries in the lineup, and 71 batting lineups in 75 games sure sounds like a lot. Then again, I wonder.

Just looking at the Twins' last 5 games, for instance, although the roster was stable, Gardy still used 5 different lineups--because a different pitcher has batted 9th each game. But, even if Gardy had the same DH batting 9th in all 5 games, he still would have used 4 different lineups just from slight tweaks to the order caused by routine substitutions (or the manager's whim). If you had just a few injuries (or other roster changes) over the course of 3 months, I imagine that putting out different lineups for most games could be pretty easy to do.

Jack Ungerleider said...

@frightwig: I think context would be better served by comparing the Twins in a stretch of games without the level of injuries. This would negate to some extent the differences in managers and their own styles. For example Gardy is often accused of having a "Sunday lineup" when he'll give regulars the day off. Particularly if its a day game after a night game with a day off Monday. So there is pattern analysis that needs to be worked into this as well. So the approach might be given the same set of pregame conditions how consistent is the line-up. I think what you would see with the 2011 Twins is that there is less consistency given those pregame conditions. (Including "caddy catchers" for particular starting pitchers.)

FWIW, I would classify lineups where the only difference is the pitcher hitting in the #9 spot as being the same. That spot should be labeled "Pitcher" and it is expected to be filled by a different player each night.