An extra run per game is a lot; it’s also just 162 runs for the entire season. Wouldn’t it be great if you could look under the mattress, or behind the sofa, and find just 162 more runs than you thought you had?
There is a sure-fire, tried and true way to do this: Replace the hitters you have with better ones. Exit Denorfia, enter Beltran; exit Ellis, enter Utley; problem solved. The question today is: Given the players you have, how do you find some more runs with the lineup available to you?
“The Right Lineup” One way is to craft your lineup carefully so as to maximize the complementary skills each player brings to the table. Sadly, research (sources: obvious.com and exaggeratetomakeapoint.org) has shown that the difference between putting a given group of hitters in the best possible arrangement 1-9, and pulling the lineup from a hat is 5.7 runs, and about 3 days of “wear and tear” on the hat, per millennium. This is likely because Neifi Perez will kill a rally no matter where he hits and A-Rod won’t. So as you carefully craft your lineup to allow Dave Roberts to sprint first-to-third on David Eckstein’s bat-control hit-and-run roller into right field, Roberts actually got out while the other team put up a 5-spot because all their hitters tend to get on base, get hits, and homer a lot.
“Take The Extra Base” This one intrigues me a lot. If your faster guys, like Denorfia, Buck, Ellis and Crosby, and even your average speed guys, like Barton and Suzuki, go first to third and second to home, with unusual aggressiveness (frequency) and facility (success rate), how many runs can you find by turning potential “first and second, one out” RISP opportunities into “first and third, one out” sacrifice fly opportunities and by turning “runner at third, one out” sacrifice fly opportunities into “run scored” outcomes? Even the “take a walk, stand around, research-says-it’s-better-to-meander-into-a smoke-filled-inferno-to-rescue-a drunk-pedophile-than-to-run-into-an-out” A’s have been quite vocal each of the last two spring trainings about focusing strongly on this skill – although April has seemed to knock some of the enthusiasm out of the Oakland brass. But how many runs can even the team that is best at it out of all 30 teams find over the average “take the extra base” team?
“What Else Is There?” Given the best 9 you have, in some batting order designed to make some sense (or at least to fail to make no sense), what other places might you search for, and find, another 20-30 – or 100 if you don’t mind – runs to help foil Pythagoras? Crafty platoons? Witchcraft? Kraft cheese slices in the post-game spread? I'm searching for the right angle here - get it, Pythagoras, right angle? Fine I'll shut up and hear what you have to say.