Which lineups should be feared?

As fantasy baseball players we develop certain rules that we use as shortcuts when making personnel decisions. Stream pitchers against the Padres at home or avoid the Rangers lineup are two common examples. Admit it, you use these, too.

Everything is constantly changing in the baseball landscape though, so every so often it’s a good idea to make sure the stats still support the rules. To do this I checked out the FanGraphs team leaderboard, which shows us how many runs each team is scoring. Here are the top 10 scoring teams in 2012:

+============+=====+ | Team | R | +============+=====+ | Rangers | 235 | | Red Sox | 221 | | Cardinals | 217 | | Braves | 216 | | Blue Jays | 200 | | Orioles | 193 | | Rockies | 191 | | Yankees | 189 | | Dodgers | 183 | | Rays | 182 | +============+=====+

First off, notice that every AL East club makes the cut. Pity the modern-day AL East pitcher, for his challenge is great. Unless you are Jeremy Hellickson, of course.

Overall the top scoring teams look pretty much in accordance with what people expect, but there are a few surprises. Despite currently employing an outfield Theo Epstein might not even recognize, the Sawx are still a team to avoid. Their infield is one of the best offensive units and thankfully Will Middlebrooks is purportedly here to stay even when Kevin Youkilis returns.

The Braves are a somewhat sneaky offensive machine, lacking any real star power. Regardless, Michael Bourn and Martin Prado are great table setters and then Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, and Co. feast in driving them home. Bottom line: The Braves are not a team you want your pitcher pitching against.

Obviously right now the Rays are a bit less scary without Evan Longoria anchoring that lineup.

+===========+=====+ | Team | R | +===========+=====+ | Tigers | 180 | | Indians | 179 | | Brewers | 176 | | White Sox | 174 | | Mets | 172 | | Phillies | 171 | | D'backs | 169 | | Astros | 167 | | Mariners | 164 | | Royals | 160 | +===========+=====+

The next set of 10 teams features two that people generally associate with anemic offense, the Mariners and Astros. Give these teams some credit, though, they’ve been better this year and are no Sunday stroll for opposing pitchers. The Mariners in particular have been “dragon slaying” a lot of quality starters this year, most recently with their encore performance against Yu Darvish last night.

It’s a little surprising to see the Tigers and White Sox here, considering how well both teams’ stars have played. However both have a few clunkers at the end of the lineup, highlighted by Ryan Raburn’s .144/.213/.216 line. How did this guy ever hit in the .280s in half seasons?

+===========+=====+ | Team | R | +===========+=====+ | Giants | 155 | | Nationals | 155 | | Twins | 155 | | Reds | 155 | | Angels | 153 | | Marlins | 152 | | Athletics | 150 | | Cubs | 149 | | Padres | 133 | | Pirates | 118 | +===========+=====+

Wow, the Pirates have really been that bad, creating a sizable gap between them and the second-to-last Padres? No wonder Justin Verlander almost no-hit them.

No surprise here with the A’s and Cubs near the bottom, but seeing the Cincinnati offense ranked this low is unexpected. I still fully expect the Reds offense to heat up—keep in mind their home park is a haven to hitters—but right now they are a team not scoring many runs and striking out a lot. Especially away from their home, don’t hesitate to start a pitcher against the Reds.

Lastly, it’s sad to see the Angels ranked so low. Albert Pujols can’t do all the heavy lifting on his own, I suppose.

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11 years ago

What if you changed your approach?  Say, how often the starting pitcher goes 7 innings w/ 2 earned runs or less, or something to that effect.  I know it would be somewhat the same results, but I assume that there would be some movement.  Perhaps a lefty/righty or home/away split?  Or how about against the top 50 fantasy SP’s, as that’s about all that’s owned in most leagues.

11 years ago

Great post. I was surprised to see the Reds so low, too. It’d be cool to see the per game averages of runs scored (as of the date of the post). So maybe you could make some informed streaming starts if you hear Kornerko and Dunn are sitting out a game and your fly ball pitcher is pitching @CWS. It might make a marginal play look more attractive if you knew the White Sox were averaging 3.2 runs per game (or whatever), so you had a good shot at a quality start.

Dave S
11 years ago

and the Marlins down the bottom also.  the 2 big FA spenders…

Paul Singman
11 years ago

David—slicing the data into those splits will probably lead at least a couple interesting findings as you say. The problem is as the samples get smaller, the conclusions are less and less predictive going forward, i.e. the team that is performing well against top 50 starters today, might be league average for the rest of the season.

So taking such numbers into account when making decisions is probably really marginally beneficial, but hey, every little edge counts.

11 years ago

If you adjust runs scored to a per-game basis to correct for differences in number of games played, the Rays and Mariners fall into the next tier down.

Paul Singman
11 years ago

Thanks Ed for adding that, and apologies for doing just about the bare minimum amount of work here.