I'm sure you've seen a variation of a quote often attributed to Mark Twain, but which actually came from Benjamin Disraeli, that notes that there are three kinds of falsehoods - "lies, damned lies and statistics." For example, you may see a poll that says only 20% approve of a proposed law that punishes anyone who makes coats out of dalmations, only to find out that out of ten people polled, eight thought that the law didn't go far enough because the law only proposed a fine and not jail time, one didn't understand the question and one was named C. Deville. Technically, only 20% approve, but it was all in how the question was asked and who was being asked. That is an example of statistics being used to deceive.
When I posted my 100 & 100 article a couple of days ago, I had no intent to deceive the reader. I personally thought that 100 line-ups used over 153 games was a bit much, but I specifically declined to editorialize. Well, I got called out. I was basically told that the information was meaningless, that all clubs use this many line-ups routinely, etc. Once I established that my line-up analysis was only for the 1 through 7 positions and that no line-up had been used more than eight times, I was told that the 2011 Phillies had used a comparable number of line-ups. Well, in all fairness, I decided to dig down and see whether or not the two teams were comparable as it pertains to line-up changes. My findings are that not all line-up changes are created equal, in my opinion.
First of all, you can't compare the line-ups directly because Charlie Manuel often used his catcher Ruiz in the #7 spot to start the season (#6 later in the season), but used his other catchers in the #8 spot. So let's look at the #1 through #6 spots during a relatively stable period for both clubs (beginning of the season through 4/28). During this period, the Phillies used 6 line-ups in the #1 through #6 spots, the most popular being used 15 times. During the same period, the Astros used 10 line-ups for those positions, the most popular being used 6 times.
The second difference is injuries. The Phillies started the season with Utley on the DL and the Astros started the season with Barmes and Keppinger on the DL. During the season, the Astros had two back-up position players and a catcher go on the DL while the Phillies had their starting shortstop, starting third baseman, starting center fielder and two catchers all go on the DL. In the cases of Polanco and Victorino, they were each on the DL twice during the season. As you go through the boxscores, you can see how Charlie Manuel is trying to plug holes for injured starters. Yet, you can still see consistency, in my opinion. For example, during one of Polanco's stints on the DL, Martinez is plugged in at that spot for 18 straight games, and Ibanez starts 9 of 10 in place of the injured Victorino at the same spot.
In the meantime, during one ten-day period I looked at, Mills used 9 different line-ups with the following players used in the following spots in the batting order:
Bourn - 1, 1, x, 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 1
Bourgeois - x, 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2, x, x
Pence - 3, 4, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3
Lee - 4, 5, 4, x, x, x, 4, 4, 4, 4
Wallace - 5, x, 5, 4, 4, 4, x, 5, 5, 6
Hall - 6, x, 6, 6, 6, 6, 5, x, 7, 5
Johnson - 7, 6, x, 5, 5, 5, x, x, 6, 7
Barmes - 2, 8, x, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 2, 8
Sanchez - x, 3, 2, x, x, x, 7, 7, x, x
Downs - x, x, 7, x, x, x, x, x, x, x
Towles - x, 7, x, x, 8, x, 8, x, x, 2
Quintero - 8, x, 8, 8, x 8, x, 8, 8, x
How many had forgotten about the whole Towles in the #2 spot experiment? I had.
To be perfectly fair, let's look at the same 10-day period for Charlie Manuel's club since they were in a transition at that point from a starting 4 of Victorino, Polanco, Rollins, Howard to Rollins, Victorino, Polanco, Howard:
Victorino - 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2
Polanco - 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3
Rollins - 3, 3, 3, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1
Howard - 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4
Francisco - 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, x, 5, 5, 5, x
Ibanez - 6, x, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 5
Orr - 7, x, 7, 7, x, x, 7, 8, x, 7
Valdez - x, 7, x, x, 8, 7, x, x, 7, x
Mayberry - x, 6, x, x, x, 5, x, x, x, x
Gload - x, x, x, x, x, x, x, x, x, 6
Schneider - 8, x, 8, 8, 7, x, 8, 7, x, 8
Sardinha - x, 8, x, x, x, 8, x, x, 8, x
As you can see, Charlie uses his starters in the same general positions for days on end and he only sits them occasionally. In a platoon situation, he keeps that position in the same part of the order as he is doing with Orr/Valdez. Could I have picked a 10-day period that was more volatile? Probably, but the above is very representative of how Manuel handled his club this season between injuries. In my opinion.
The final difference? The Phillies are an established team. Within reason, you should be able to move an established player into a different position. The Astros are in a re-building youth mode. In my opinion, players such as Altuve, Martinez and Paredes need to get consistent playing time in a consistent position in the order so that they can develop. Yet Altuve has been used in the 1, 2, 6 and 7 spots; Martinez in the 3, 4 and 5 spots; and Paredes in the 2, 5, 6 and 7 spots. We will never see what these players can really do unless we give them a legitimate chance. And how will you know if Wallace and Bogusevic will ever hit left-handed pitching if you never give them that chance? Again, this is my opinion only.
I don't have access to Elias Sports Bureau to regurgitate stats for me. So I had to go into over 300 boxscores to glean the information and the trends that I saw. Even with all the differences noted above, it still appears that the Astros used about a dozen more line-ups than the Phillies. If Charlie Manuel used Ruiz and his other catchers consistently in the #8 spot in the order and had healthy starters for most of the season as the Astros did, he probably would have used half as many line-ups as the Astros. Again, this is my opinion based on my findings and the trends I saw. In any event, comparing Charlie Manuel's use of his roster with Brad Mill's use of his roster is like comparing apples and kumquats. In my opinion.
I truly do believe that the instability of the day-to-day line-ups is a detriment to the Astros growth and development. I also do not believe that I have attempted to deceive anyone by using lies, damned lies and statistics. If anyone believes that I did, I apologize. And that is not an opinion. It is a fact.