Moneyball and the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant Softball Team
In one of the greatest sports-centric episodes in the history of television, C. Montogomery Burns organized a lineup of ringers to win the city softball championship (and a million dollar bet with his Shelbyvillian rival.) His team was originally planned to consist of such stars as Mordecai "3-Finger" Brown and Honus Wagner.
After Smithers informs Mr. Burns that these players are all retired and deceased, Smithers scours the professional ranks for the best players to join the nuclear plant's team. Smithers, fields quite the ball club. Burns chooses to manage the team of ringers and we, the viewers, are privy to his batting lineup.
(Slightly obscured, Ozzie Smith is hitting 8th and playing short. Totally obscured, Roger Clemens is batting ninth and pitching. No DHing in Springfield.)
Showing the lineup on air is neither funny, nor necessary. It serves one purpose: it allows obsessive fans like myself to waste my time analyzing the lineup of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. First, let's check the current lineup. I've added the player's OBP and Slugging Percentage. I've denoted the players who bat from the left side and added stolen bases numbers when appropriate. The episode originally aired in 1992, (on my sixth birthday, incidentally) so all these stats are from 1991. Thanks to Baseball Reference for these statistics.
1-Steve Sax (L) - .345 .414 - SB 31
2-Wade Boggs (L) - .421 .460
3-Darryl Strawberry (L) - .361 .491
4-Jose Canseco - .359 .556 - SB 26
5- Don Mattingly (L)- .339 .394
6-Ken Griffey Jr. (L)- .399 .527
7-Mike Scioscia (L) - .353 .391
8-Ozzie Smith (S)- .380 .367 - SB 35
With this lineup, order is essentially irrelevant because of the talent, but I believe that Burns would be getting the most from his players. My first qualm is with the leadoff position. Steve Sax has the second lowest On Base Percentage on the team. While it's nice to have some speed at the top of the lineup, Sax is not the only speedy option. The 8th hitter, Ozzie Smith had the third highest OBP of the team, plus 4 more stolen bases than Sax. Plus, Smith is a switch hitter. Boggs is a great second hitter. He's a great moneyball player with an OBP of .421. Straw isn't a bad hitter for the third spot, but Canseco has a similiar OBP and a much higher Slugging Percentage. Plus he has some speed, which would be nice at that spot. Hitting cleanup is Junior Griffey. He and Canseco easily have the highest slugging percentage of the group.
One of Burn's team's weakness is the ridiculous amount of lefty batters (7!). The new lineup has a switch hitter leading off, a lefty, then a righty, then a lefty. It's all lefties from here on out, and from now on, the batting order is essentially moot. All things considered, here's the final lineup:
- Ozzie Smith
- Wade Boggs
- Jose Canseco
- Ken Griffey Jr.
- Darryl Strawberry
- Don Mattingly
- Steve Sax
- Mike Scioscia
- Roger Clemens
Plus the pinch-hitter extraordinaire, Homer Simpson.
"Homer at the Bat" deserves many, many more posts. (And will likely receive them.) Stay tuned.