How many runs is Torre costing the Dodgers?

Matt Kemp is awesome. He is most certainly one of the best players in the N.L. The biggest reason from his jump to borderline all-star to one of the best players in the N.L comes from his improved plate discipline. He has the same contact % last year and this year (56 vs 54), but he is swinging at less bad pitches (26.1 O-Swing% this year vs 31.5% last year). This has lead to not only a lessened K rate, but also a better walk rate. With his usual high average and now respectable 9% BB rate, Kemp has brought his OBP into the .380s-good enough for 2nd on the Dodgers. But Kemp’s value is being seriously misused by Joe Torre. Kemp should be hitting 2nd each and every game. Instead, Kemp is slotted in the 7th and 8th hole day in and day out. Just how much is this costing the Dodgers? Well let’s find out.

Let’s compare Kemp to the usual #2 hitter, Orlando Hudson. Hudson currently has a wOBA of .352. Kemp has a wOBA of .383. This is a pretty large discrepancy, and it is costing the Dodgers a substantial amount of runs.  Let’s assign a baseline PA amount to each player of 600. Hudson is worth 10.95 runs above a replacement hitter over 600 PAs [(.352-.331)/1.15]*600. Kemp is worth 27.13 runs per 600 PAs over a replacement hitter [(.383-.331)/1.15]*600.

So, what does this all mean? In a study published in Baseball Between the Numbers, it was found that each spot a batter moves down in the lineup means 18 less PAs per season. That means that Hudson would get roughly 108 more PAs per year if he spent the entire season in the 2 hole and Kemp spent the entire season batting 8th. So let’s go through the math again and see how many runs the Dodgers would gain by putting Kemp 2nd and Hudson 8th.  Let’s say Kemp would get 654 PAs in the 2 hole, and Hudson would get 546 PAs in the 8th spot (a 108 PA difference). Kemp is worth 29.57 runs batting 2nd. This is a 2.44 run difference. Hudson would be worth 9.97 runs if he was batting in the 8th slot. A difference of .98 runs. This is a total difference of 3.42 runs, or .342 wins. This is not a lot, but we also have to take into account the fact that less valuable hitters than Kemp would be receiving less PAs while he would receive more if he was moved up to the top of the order. The math gets redundant, so I’ll spare you, but the difference is close to 10 runs, or one win. This could be the difference between winning the division and sitting at home. Of course the Dodgers are far and away the best team in their division, so this isn’t a costly mistake Torre is making, but it is still worth noting.

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