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In Some Depth: Volatility Check

Ryan Eisner

Ryan has been writing for Rotowire since 2007. He currently writes about baseball and covers the White Sox.

Memorial Day is right around the corner, and rather than looking at a handful of positional battles, I thought it would be a good time to examine which teams and managers have utilized the most and fewest lineups to the quarter-way mark.

Teams have used an average of 27.5 lineups through the season's first 43 games or so, with a high of 38 (Houston) and a low of 18 (three teams). However, just looking at the raw number of lineups is not very telling, since not every team has played an equal number of games. Wacky weather patterns, and the presence of an open-air stadium in Minnesota means there is a four-game discrepancy between teams. Hence, I created a "stability quotient" by dividing each team's number of games played by the number of lineups used.

A low stability quotient represents a team that has used a high number of lineups given the number of games played, while a high stability quotient reflects a team that has used few lineups given the number of games played.

Rather than discuss every team's number of lineups, I thought it would be more useful to briefly discuss teams that have been outliers thus far. Hence, the analysis below only includes teams that are one standard deviation (.45) above or below the average stability quotient of 1.67. Bolded teams have been more stable, while italics indicates greater tumult.

TeamGames PlayedNumber of LineupsStability Quotient

Least stable teams

Houston Astros
Games Played: 44
Lineups Used: 38
Stability Quotient: 1.16

The Astros have been the league's most volatile team this year. This should not come as too much of a surprise to most baseball observers as the organization auditions fringy prospects and remains patient while their upper-division prospects are being molded in the lower minors. Their number of lineups should increase further if/when they try to flip some of their MLB talent for additional minor league pieces.

The infield has actually been fairly stable in Houston, as Jose Altuve (39 starts), Matt Dominguez (41), and Marwin Gonzalez (30) have all held down second, third, and short, respectively. Also, center has been fairly calm, with Justin Maxwell starting all 20 games before his injury and Robbie Grossman starting 20 of the 24 since. The other two outfield positions, along with DH, have been holes. Eight men have served as the team's designated hitter, generally as a place of refuge for would-be first basemen (i.e.: Carlos Pena, Chris Carter). Seven players have started in right, with Jimmy Paredes being the recent favorite in the spot, and six men have started in left, where J.D. Martinez has been the hot hand lately.

Miami Marlins
Games Played: 44
Lineups Used: 37
Stability Quotient: 1.19

The Marlins have experienced more than their fair share of tumult this season, thanks to a slew of injuries and a great deal of baseball ineptitude. In fact, their Opening Day lineup played together on that day, and the team's most common lineup has only played together in four games.

Five players have started in right, but Marcell Ozuna has started 18 consecutive games there since Giancarlo Stanton hit the disabled list, and Adeiny Hechevarria has started nearly every game at shortstop for which he has been healthy. Five players have started at first base, with Greg Dobbs leading the charge. The number of players at first base could grow now that the team is carrying three catchers. Justin Ruggiano has fended off advances from Chris Coghlan in center, but Ozuna could slide over here if the Marlins decide they want to keep him up after Stanton returns.

Tampa Bay Rays
Games Played: 43
Lineups Used: 36
Stability Quotient: 1.19

Unlike the Marlins or Astros, the Rays have featured a high number of lineups while boasting a win-loss record on the positive side of .500. That high number is thanks to the defensive malleability of players like Ben Zobrist, Kelly Johnson, and Sean Rodriguez, among others. They have never used the same lineup more than three times, and only Yunel Escobar and Desmond Jennings have started more than 35 games at a single position.

The DH slot, which has typically served as a dumping ground for surplus players, has seen the greatest number of starters, with five. The now-departed Shelley Duncan and recently-returned Luke Scott have combined for more than half the starts at the position, and Scott's presence should bring a level of stability. In addition, the fluctuating corner outfield spots could become a bit calmer if/when Wil Myers arrives.

Most Stable Teams

Chicago Cubs, Baltimore Orioles, St. Louis Cardinals
Games Played: 43
Lineups Used: 18
Stability Quotient: 2.39

One of these things is not like the others. All three of these teams the Cubs, Cardinals, and Orioles have enjoyed a good deal of health this season. However, the Orioles' and Cardinals' stability and success are likely correlated, but the Cubs sit 10 games out of first place. Their young duo of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro have both played all 43 games, and seven of their nine positions have been manned by players who have started 30+ contests. The only positions without a 30-game starter are second base, where injury has limited Darwin Barney to 29 games, and third base, where the Cubs have allowed Luis Valbuena to start 27 games while they have given trials to Cody Ransom and Brent Lillibridge.

The Orioles are unique in that they are the only American League team among the stability-leading trio the stability of the Cubs and Cardinals has benefitted from those teams' lack of DH play. Nine players have DH'd for the O's, but four players (Chris Davis at first, Manny Machado at third, J.J. Hardy at short, and Adam Jones in center) have all started 42 or 43 of the Orioles' 43 games. The two non-DH positions with the greatest amount of flux have been second base and left field. The former should continue to be a point for variation, with Brian Roberts on the DL and Ryan Flaherty in Triple-A. Nate McLouth, who entered Monday with an AL-high 13 steals, could pacify left.

The Cardinals have also benefitted from a good deal of good health for their position players. In fact, no position player has hit the DL this season, outside of David Freese's season-opening back injury. The only truly contentious position has been Second base, where Matt Carpenter has started 28 games to Daniel Descalso's 15. The lack of commotion at the major league level should continue, which will make it difficult for minor league standouts like Kolten Wong and Oscar Tavares to make any sort of fantasy contributions.

San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers
Games Played: 44
Lineups Used: 19
Stability Quotient: 2.32

The 2010 World Series participants are tied for fourth in the lineup stability standings, and they are unsurprisingly near the top of their divisional standings. No Ranger has played all 44 games, but Mitch Moreland, Adrian Beltre, Evlis Andrus and Nelson Cruz have played at least 42 of them. Additionally, Lance Berkman has served as the team's DH for 36 of the 39 games in which the DH rule was in effect. Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin have split starts in center at a 50/50 clip thus far, generally depending on the opposing pitcher's handedness. The other semi-contentious position has been left field, where David Murphy has ceded nine games to Jeff Baker. Ian Kinsler's bruised ribs opens up some playing time at second for Leury Garcia and Jurrickson Profar, but his absence should not have much of a ripple effect on the rest of the lineup.

The Giants may be the oldest team in the National League with an average age of 29.7, but they have remained healthy and capable with the bat. First base is no longer a struggle now that Brandon Belt is "free," and Marco Scutaro has stabilized second base since arriving from Colorado last year. Gregor Blanco has the fewest number of starts of any regular with 28, but neither Francisco Peguero nor Andres Torres is much of a threat there.

Kansas City Royals
Games Played: 40
Number of Lineups: 19
Stability Quotient: 2.11

Thanks to the weather in the Midwest thus far, the Royals are tied with the Twins for the fewest games played with 40. Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon have secured their respective positions for all 40 of those games, and the Royals boast one of the few remaining full-time DH's in Billy Butler. The greatest variation has been at second base, where Chris Getz has begun to cede starts to Elliot Johnson, and right field, where Jeff Francouer has increasing shed starts to Lorenzo Cain. Salvador Perez has been a rock behind the plate, starting 36 of 40 games after experiencing an injury-marred 2012.

Detroit Tigers
Games Played: 42
Number of Lineups: 20
Stability Quotient: 2.10

The Tigers have employed their Opening Day lineup 12 times this season, and they have only started five infielders all season. The Tigers employ a full-time DH in Victor Martinez, and guys like Jhonny Peralta, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera have been made of iron for their entire careers. Austin Jackson's placement on the DL and Avisail Garcia's arrival could cause a disturbance in the outfield, especially if Garcia plays well enough to warrant a full-time job once Jackson returns.