Ottoneu 101: Plate Appearances by Lineup Spot

If you’ve played ottoneu for any amount of time, you are likely aware of the impact that platoons have on the game. The large rosters are perfect for platooning, and nearly every team in each league will implement it in some form. Most owners are hyper-efficient at this, and could probably tell you which 5 outfielders they plan to use against against right or left handed starting pitching. The goal of platooning, at it’s core, is to boost your points per game production. This typically could lead into a debate of how many roster spots you should devote to platoons, and if you can effectively meet game caps while platooning. This could be debated forever and, if you play ottoneu, you are probably well acclimated to both sides of the debate. However, today I want to take a slightly different approach.

Intuitively, we know that lineup position impacts fantasy production. For example, players who hit at the top of the lineup accrue more plate appearances, and more plate appearances lead to higher volume on counting stats, solely based on where they are slotted in the lineup. With the help of the Fangraphs Split Leaderboards and Baseball Reference seasonal splits, we can take this a little bit further to see the impact.

Plate Appearances by Lineup Position
Split GS PA PA/GS PADiff/G PADiff/600 Diff
Batting 1st 4,856 22,598 4.65 0.43 600.00
Batting 2nd 4,856 22,077 4.55 0.32 586.17 13.83
Batting 3rd 4,856 21,530 4.43 0.21 571.64 28.36
Batting 4th 4,856 21,039 4.33 0.11 558.61 41.39
Batting 5th 4,856 20,569 4.24 0.01 546.13 53.87
Batting 6th 4,856 20,054 4.13 (0.09) 532.45 67.55
Batting 7th 4,856 19,485 4.01 (0.21) 517.35 82.65
Batting 8th 4,856 18,923 3.90 (0.33) 502.42 97.58
Batting 9th 4,856 18,305 3.77 (0.45) 486.02 113.98
Total 43,704 184,580 4.22 544.53 55.47
PA/GS: Plate Appearances per Game Started
PADiff/G: Plate Appearance difference per Game Started
PADiff/600: PADiff/G prorated to 600 PAs

So we can see that as you progress through the batting order, the expected number of plate appearances you accrue also decrease. In the last two columns, I have prorated the per game numbers to 600 PAs, and have shown the difference. So for example, you can see that over 600 plate appearances, a player would lose roughly 14 plate appearances by moving from the first to second spot in the lineup, 28 from 1st to 3rd, etc. This does not include substitutions as we are only looking at every plate appearances that accrued for the 2016 season for each lineup spot. However, what if a player has a heavy platoon splits or is substituted for at the end of games. What happens then?

Plate Appearances with Subs by Lineup Position
Split G PA PA/G PADiff/G PADiff/600 Diff
Batting 1st 5,461 22,598 4.14 1.10 600.00
Batting 2nd 5,564 22,077 3.97 0.93 575.32 24.68
Batting 3rd 5,530 21,530 3.89 0.86 564.51 35.49
Batting 4th 5,670 21,039 3.71 0.68 538.02 61.98
Batting 5th 5,734 20,569 3.59 0.55 520.13 79.87
Batting 6th 5,971 20,054 3.36 0.32 486.98 113.02
Batting 7th 6,040 19,485 3.23 0.19 467.75 132.25
Batting 8th 6,670 18,923 2.84 (0.20) 411.36 188.64
Batting 9th 14,169 18,305 1.29 (1.74) 187.32 412.68
Total 60,809 184,580 3.04 440.12 159.88
PA/GS: Plate Appearances per Game Started
PADiff/G: Plate Appearance difference per Game Started
PADiff/600: PADiff/G prorated to 600 PAs

Now the divisions between each spot are a little more apparent. What is happening? The first chart shows that a random leadoff hitter who started every game and was never substituted would accrue 4.65 plate appearances per game started. (Think George Springer). However, if you allow for substitutions to take place, either due to a defensive replacement, a pinch hitter, or pinch runner, the average plate appearances expected per game would drop for this same hitter to 4.14 per game. There is a bit of a misnomer in the 9th spot, in that the number of games played for that positions is more than double the next closest spot. The reason is pitchers hitting, which leads to many in game substitutions. However, since many number 9 hitters are not fantasy relevant (even in ottoneu) I’ll ignore that for now, and would probably just use the number 8 hitter totals for someone projected to hit 9th.

So what does this mean. For every 600 plate appearances a leadoff hitter gets, you can see that someone in the 8 hole will get roughly ~190 less PAs, 7th would have approximately ~130 less, etc. I used 600 just to get a baseline, this number could be extrapolated to whatever total you wanted to use.

Differences per Game
Split PA/GS PA/G Diff
Batting 1st 4.65 4.14 0.52
Batting 2nd 4.55 3.97 0.58
Batting 3rd 4.43 3.89 0.54
Batting 4th 4.33 3.71 0.62
Batting 5th 4.24 3.59 0.65
Batting 6th 4.13 3.36 0.77
Batting 7th 4.01 3.23 0.79
Batting 8th 3.90 2.84 1.06
Batting 9th 3.77 1.29 2.48
Total 4.22 3.04 1.19

For visualization purposes, here is the difference for each lineup spot per game based on games started compared to games played. So, I guess the million dollar question is how to move forward with this. We know that platoon players and those with poor defensive abilities tend to be substituted more often at the end of games. Is there a way to adjust our dollar values to account for this? I believe so. In building my projections for 2017, I am focusing heavily on trying get accurate playing time projections. Steamer and Zips don’t typically account for this, so if building your projections solely off playing time provided by those systems, you will likely overstate the the time that players in platoon roles will provide. Likewise, if you are only considering per plate appearance number, you will grossly misstate the value of equal talents who play every day. As an example, consider Adam Eaton and Josh Reddick.

Eaton v. Reddick
Name Pts P/G P/PA wOBA $
Adam Eaton 764 5.34 1.18 0.334 18
Josh Reddick 605 4.96 1.23 0.336 8

By wOBA, both players are extremely similar. Reddick is the better player by points per plate appearance, and if one was solely interested in the efficient match up, he would be the better play. That being said, he is projected to hit 7th in the Astros lineup which will significantly limit his PAs, while it looks like Eaton will lead off for the Nationals. Acknowledging that these are generic dollar values based off of the FG depth charts, the line up position helps to explain difference in their prices, making Eaton the far superior player. While the production each is expected to produce appears nearly identical.

So how do we move forward with this? Personally, I am factoring lineup decisions into my valuation as it helps to boost overall performance by means of volume. Certainly this does not mean I want to own Alcides Escobar. However, I will drastically increase the values of similar players if one projects to hit near the top of a lineup (Dexter Fowler, Kole Calhoun, Odubel Herrera, etc.) What about you? Are there specific players you value much higher or lower based off their position in the lineup? (Jackie Bradley and Andrew Benintendi is another comparison that come to mind). Let’s discuss in the comments.

We hoped you liked reading Ottoneu 101: Plate Appearances by Lineup Spot by Joe Douglas!

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Joe works at a consulting firm in Pittsburgh. When he isn't working or studying for actuarial exams, he focuses on baseball. He also writes @thepointofpgh. Follow him on twitter @Ottoneutrades

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Nelson S.
Nelson S.

How do you see the texas lineup shaking out? Will Gomez and his .310 OBP hit leadoff while Andrus and Mazara get stuck at 7 and 8/9?