We’ve never worried to much about lineups. Over the course of a full season, it doesn’t make much of a difference. But in the framework of a single game, the lineup can make a huge difference.

But when people hear that Joe Maddon used 129 lineups last year in 162 games, it sounds like JoeMa has commitment issues. And to a certain extent, he does. But let’s put that number into some perspective.

The 129 different batting orders in 2010 was only slightly more than 2009 (125). It does mark a big jump over 2008 when he used 115 different lineups. But it is still well-short of the 145 lineups Maddon used in his first season (2006). 145! in 162 games! That, my friends, is not easy to do.

For fun, let’s compare Maddon to the Red Sox and the Yankees over the last five seasons. In general, Maddon does tend to tinker more than those two teams. But the extent of the tinkering does not appear to be that crazy…

All data via Baseball-Reference.com



  1. KillaTapes says:

    I think it just goes to show you the versatility that Maddon has had to work with. Thinking back to the last couple years, there've been less flashy superstars, and more versatile young guys that were flexible to enough to be moved around in the lineup as well as in the field.

    A team like the Yankees can assess that they don't have a proven lead-off guy and go get one, the Rays have to use what they can, and so you end up with Jaso, your catcher there after struggling with a few other options.

    Also interesting how much of a spike the Sox had last year with all the injuries they incurred. Sometimes even the wealthy teams need to tinker.

    • Sarah says:

      I agree with you. When Maddon had everyday players who produced, he kept them where they were -- Longo and Crawford were fairly set in the line up (I know he moved them once and then they stayed in their new slots).

      So if the Rays can sign other players who are as consistently productive as Longoria and Crawford, then Joe will do less tinkering!

  2. Gus says:

    That graph is misleading in that if you look at the frequency of the lineup changes -- Maddon I think is way off the charts (perhaps because he has more flawed players). Put another way -- a guy like Zobrist or Upton hit in 7 different slots. Bartlett was all over the place. And the 2010 Rays were far more healthy than the Red Sox, whose line ups kept changing because they kept losing starters to injury.

    All that said, I don't mind the tinkering; the blind faith in the platoon we saw in the playoffs with Shoppach over Jaso, etc. is what drove so many of us nuts.

    We complain, but the fact is that Maddon is an excellent motivator, a guy who gets most of it correct. As fans, we'll be here to point out when he goofed (as he will for sure). But hopefully, we'll also remember his good moves.

    So when BJ Upton puts together an All-Star season in 2011 and Shoppach starts hitting like its 2008 again, I'll be the first one to credit Maddon for having patience of Job with those guys.

  3. Scot says:

    Unless you start every game with Juan Pierre, difference produced by the order of the batting is pretty small. As I remember, the difference between the stupidest order and the most efficient using the same lineup is about 1 or 2 games losses over the entire season. You can make that up by shipping Bartlett to SD and giving his slot to just about any productive SS. Or benching Pena for Dan Johnson.


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