Lineup Leaders & Losers: Batting second

Mike Trout is #1 in the #2 slot

Mike Trout is #1 in the #2 slot

In their sabermetric study entitled The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman, and Andrew Dolphin analyze the data and conclude that the optimal lineup has a team’s three best hitters in the #1, #2, and #4 slots in the batting order. They outline the skill set that determines how these players are positioned. The leadoff hitter should reach base most often and less home run power is preferred. Meanwhile, the #2 hitter should walk more than the #4 hitter, who ideally has the most extra-base hits.

The number two batter comes to the plate more frequently than any batter other than the leadoff batter, often with the bases empty, so think of him as having the characteristics of a second number one in the lineup.

Number Two batters in 2013

My first big revelation here was discovering how bad the number two hitters were last season for the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds had the best leadoff batters in baseball last season and the worst #2 batters.

Take a look:

2013 #2 batters hitting by team
AVG OBP SLUG
1. St. Louis Cardinals .304 .350 .472
2. Detroit Tigers .303 .344 .452
3. Boston Red Sox .295 .362 .446
4. San Francisco Giants .292 .357 .387
5. Milwaukee Brewers .287 .324 .424
6. Los Angeles Angels .286 .357 .489
7. Baltimore Orioles .283 .313 .434
8. Arizona Diamondbacks .282 .333 .420
9. Tampa Bay Rays .281 .364 .451
10. New York Mets .279 .324 .417
11. Kansas City Royals .275 .322 .380
12. Minnesota Twins .270 .340 .390
13. Los Angeles Dodgers .267 .320 .385
14. Pittsburgh Pirates .262 .332 .436
15. Oakland Athletics .261 .334 .407
16. Texas Rangers .258 .311 .340
17. Philadelphia Phillies .258 .315 .402
18. Toronto Blue Jays .256 .322 .385
19. Colorado Rockies .256 .290 .341
20. Atlanta Braves .250 .333 .417
21. Houston Astros .248 .296 .354
22. Chicago White Sox .246 .283 .327
23. Miami Marlins .246 .304 .313
24. New York Yankees .244 .313 .374
25. Chicago Cubs .244 .310 .377
26. Cleveland Indians .242 .316 .407
27. San Diego Padres .241 .299 .381
28. Seattle Mariners .232 .303 .397
29. Washington Nationals .229 .289 .359
30. Cincinnati Reds .228 .281 .350

There were 14 batters who had at least 300 PA in the #2 slot

2013 Number two hitters (min 300 PA)
PA AVG OBP SLUG OPS
1. Mike Trout (LAA) 405 .329 .420 .595 1.015
2. Carlos Beltran (STL) 369 .313 .345 .534 .880
3. Joe Mauer (MIN) 405 .310 .385 .464 .849
4. Torii Hunter (DET) 632 .306 .339 .466 .805
5. Daniel Murphy (NYM) 511 .302 .339 .440 .778
6. Shane Victorino (BOS) 481 .298 .357 .459 .816
7. Marco Scutaro (SF) 482 .297 .361 .372 .733
8. Jean Segura (MIL) 528 .297 .329 .429 .758
9. Alexei Ramirez (CWS) 372 .288 .317 .373 .690
10. Manny Machado (BAL) 698 .285 .313 .435 .749
11. Jose Altuve (HOU) 378 .282 .312 .368 .680
12. Elvis Andrus (TEX) 522 .278 .329 .348 .677
13. Starlin Castro (CHC) 358 .268 .307 .386 .694
14. Alcides Escobar (KC) 312 .240 .274 .315 .589

Tango says the #2 hitter should walk more than the #4 hitter

Walks by # 2 batters
BB
1. Tampa Bay Rays 84
2. Atlanta Braves 73
3. Minnesota Twins 69
4. Cleveland Indians 69
5. Los Angeles Angels 68
6. Oakland Athletics 67
7. Seattle Mariners 66
8. San Francisco Giants 63
9. Toronto Blue Jays 61
10. New York Yankees 59
11. Pittsburgh Pirates 58
12. Washington Nationals 55
13. Chicago Cubs 54
14. San Diego Padres 51
15. Philadelphia Phillies 51
16. Boston Red Sox 50
17. Texas Rangers 49
18. Arizona Diamondbacks 48
19. St. Louis Cardinals 46
20. Miami Marlins 45
21. Kansas City Royals 45
22. New York Mets 44
23. Cincinnati Reds 44
24. Houston Astros 43
25. Los Angeles Dodgers 40
26. Detroit Tigers 40
27. Chicago White Sox 33
28. Baltimore Orioles 31
29. Milwaukee Brewers 30
30. Colorado Rockies 29

Walks by #4 batters
BB
1. Cleveland Indians 88
2. Boston Red Sox 85
3. Chicago White Sox 79
4. Tampa Bay Rays 77
5. San Francisco Giants 77
6. Detroit Tigers 75
7. Houston Astros 70
8. Washington Nationals 69
9. New York Mets 69
10. Milwaukee Brewers 69
11. Toronto Blue Jays 66
12. San Diego Padres 66
13. Arizona Diamondbacks 66
14. Minnesota Twins 64
15. Pittsburgh Pirates 63
16. New York Yankees 63
17. Miami Marlins 60
18. Kansas City Royals 60
19. Los Angeles Angels 59
20. Oakland Athletics 58
21. Los Angeles Dodgers 58
22. Cincinnati Reds 58
23. St. Louis Cardinals 57
24. Colorado Rockies 56
25. Atlanta Braves 56
26. Texas Rangers 49
27. Philadelphia Phillies 49
28. Seattle Mariners 48
29. Chicago Cubs 36
30. Baltimore Orioles 32

The Rays, Braves, Twins, Angels, A’s, Mariners, Cubs, and Phillies were successful in that venture (Rangers were even).

Teams to watch #2 in 2014

As you can see, Carlos Beltran was very effective for the NL champs Cardinals last season batting second, but he is now with the Yankees. So, what happens with them? STLtoday.com, Post-Dispatch columnist and former baseball writer Joe Strauss was asked this today.

Strauss responded, “I have no issue with Mark Ellis hitting second against lefties. He carried a .364 OBP against LH starters last season, .347 for his career. I’m willing to look at Jon Jay there against RHP, owing to a career .300 average and .360 OBP against RH pitching.” He also added that vaunted rookie prospect Oscar Tavaras “could merit a look in that No. 2 role.”

The World Champion Red Sox will have a change in their lineup as well. Their number two guy, Shane Victorino will most likely leadoff for Boston as Jacoby Ellsbury will now leadoff for the Yankees. There is a good chance that the Sox will hope that Daniel Nava can repeat his surprisingly successful 2013 campaign and bat second in 2014.

I wondered about Dustin Pedroia who seems like the prototypical #2 batter who excelled last season in the #3 slot. There are two things I’m sure of: Pedroia will produce beyond expectations in whatever he is asked to do and Professor John Farrell, the Boston manager, analyzed and understands baseball intricacies on levels far more complex than almost all of this.

I asked the Boston Globe‘s Peter Abraham, a writer with insight and knowledge about how Pedroia ended up number three in the order last season as opposed to number two where he had excelled: “It was more how it worked out. They initially planned to swap Victorino and Pedroia at the number two depending on the pitcher. But when Shane worked out so well on either side they decided to leave him there. It was more on Shane than Pedroia. They feel they can hit Pedroia most anywhere,” said Abraham

He added, “I find the batting order thing interesting. My personal belief is that beyond wanting to get your best players the most at-bats, where they are in the order doesn’t matter. I think the Sox would have scored the same amount of runs if it was David Ortiz, Pedroia, Victorino, Ellsbury instead of the reverse. For an AL team that doesn’t bunt much, I don’t see a great difference.”

The Yankees are also intriguing in that they picked up the second ranked leadoff batter in Ellsbury (and he will indeed leadoff for the New Yorkers) and the second ranked number two batter in Beltran. However, Beltran will be asked to use his left-handed power to blast balls into the friendly Yankee Stadium stands and the Yankees seem to be counting on almost 40-year old Derek Jeter not only return to excellence at short but also as a number two batter.