Where Science Meets Muse

Baseball and creativity

Posted by Plish on October 3, 2008

One way to spur your creativity is to try and link dissimilar topics. So, since we are in the midst of the baseball playoffs (Go White Sox!), I thought, what’s better than writing about something that links baseball and creativity. So I got to thinking…


No doubt there are times in baseball where players use creativity in getting an out or in hitting and running. Yet, it dawned on me that there is one place where very little creativity is used and yet it’s an area where it could have huge returns.


The line-up.


Yes, there is precious little creativity used in placing the nine men at various slots in the lineup.


“How’s that, Plish?”


If strictly talking numbers, say a team only had nine players that were bonafide starters counting the DH (I’m talking the American League here). That means there are 9! (nine factorial) ways that lineup can be put together. That’s 362,880 different ways of putting together a lineup! Now, say the team has 12 bonafide starters from which to pick from, that number balloons to 79,833,600 combinations! If there are 14 then the number goes to 726,485,760!! Just for fun, if all 25 players (this means including pitchers) could be picked from to make the starting lineup, the number of possible permutations is: 741,354,768,000!


Now going back to the more realistic lineups. How many different lineups would you say most managers use during the course of a season? I don’t know, but I would venture to guess that at the most teams use maybe 40 lineups during the course of a season – and that’s with injuries. (Actually, even if they used different lineups for every game that would be a whole 0.45% of the permutations used in the best case scenario!)


I know, I know. Technically, according to baseball traditions, certain guys bat lead off because they’re fast, and other guys bat fourth because they’re sluggers, and the not so great guys bat near the end, and others bat at a certain place because they freak out if they don’t.


But still. There are somewhere between 362,880 and 726,485,760 different combinations and baseball managers don’t even scratch the surface with the various permutations. After all, how do they know for sure that some other permutation might not be magnitudes better? The only time a lineup really matters is in the first inning, and maybe the second. After that the “leadoff” guy may not lead-off for the rest of the game, and the clean-up guy (the guy batting fourth) may never come up with men on base.


So what do you think? How well do you stack up compared to Baseball managers and are they really lacking in creativity with regards to lineups?


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