If you had the greatest baseball players ever at your disposal, imagine the possibilities. You could have an outfield of Barry Bonds, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth. Micky Mantle could be your DH. How about a triple play around the horn from Mike Schmidt to Rogers Hornsby to Lou Gehrig.
Makes your mouth water, eh?
My father-in-law sent me a link to a basic website that calculates just how many runs your dream lineup would generate, based on on-base percentage and slugging. It then generates an optimum batting order for your lineup, a real Murderer's Row if ever there was one.
Now, it's not perfect, but it is fun.
How's this for a lineup:
1. Barry Bonds, OF
2. Babe Ruth, OF
3. Mickey Mantle, DH
4. Lou Gehrig, 1B
5. Ted Williams, OF
6. Alex Rodriguez, SS
7. Mike Schmidt, 3B
8. Mike Piazza, C
9. Rogers Hornsby, 2B
Yes, it has Bonds leading off (because it's based purely on simple sabermetric principles and his ridiculous on-base percentage trumps everyone) and yes, A-Rod is at short, but other than that it's pretty darn impressive. How many other lineups would you ever see with a two-time Triple Crown winner batting ninth?
With Schmidt, Piazza and Hornsby in the seven-eight-nine holes, do you really think Bonds wouldn't get his fair share of RBI opportunities after his first at-bat? Good luck walking him on four pitches low and away. I wonder how many times people intentionally walked Lyn Lary to get to the Babe?
According to Baseball Musings, the creator of this little utility program, the above lineup would average almost 10.8 runs per game, or 1,743 in a single season.
To put that in context, the most runs in a single season by any team since the turn of the 1900s was 1,067, achieved by the '31 Yankees when they averaged 6.9 runs a game in their first year under Joe McCarthy. Incidentally they didn't win a ring that year, despite Gehrig and Ruth combining for 92 homers and 347 RBI.
With that in mind, I wanted to see just how well my New York Mets would fare. I selected the best single offensive season by a Mets player at each position (using a DH instead of the pitcher's spot) and pumped the numbers into the website.
Here's the lineup it gave me:
1. John Olerud, 1B
2. Darryl Strawberry, OF
3. David Wright, 3B
4. Mike Piazza, C
5. Bernard Gilkey, OF
6. Howard Johnson, DH
7. Carlos Beltran, OF
8. Jose Reyes, SS
9. Edgardo Alfonso, 2B
This particular batting order would average 7.4 runs a game, according to the good folk at Baseball Musings.
Just for fun, I wanted to see what happened if I swapped out a player. You know, like if I swapped out Beltran for, say, a 50-pound sack of long grain white rice. He would have an OBP of 0.000 and a slugging percentage of 0.000. His range in the outfield would be comparable.
The results I got made me laugh.
According to the site, Sack O' Rice would bat eighth, ahead of Edgardo Alfonso. Tony LaRussa has been doing this with his pitchers for years. Only now do I appreciate his genius.
Maybe more importantly, my team would only lose one run a game by replacing Beltran with an inanimate object. I would consider that an acceptable loss.
If only I could sneak into Terry Collins' office and get my hand on that lineup card...