slomo007 wrote:Why would anyone want Soriano in the first or 2nd spot?... Dellucci will be a lot better this year following his LASIK surgery, thus the increased walks... Young is the ideal #2...great contact, good speed, few Ks, good OBP...I don't see any argument whatsoever for batting Soriano first or second...
so lasik = good leadoff hitter? need more sample size, come one dude. I have Dellucci myself and the lasik thing sounds good but I'm not buying that, just treating it like any other hot player.
You don't have to get all Jim Rome on me and claim there is no arguement for something like #2 attributes, Slomo.
Ideal #2 hitter is an interesting topic. My idea before reading this article was for the #2 hitter to have power and speed but I'm still digesting after reading this article:
No. 2 with a bunt or a bang?
On April 23, Detroit manager Alan Trammell announced he was moving Ivan Rodriguez, the team's best hitter, from third to second in the Tigers' lineup. Trammell was quoted in the Detroit News: "Pudge has probably hit second more in his career than anything else. So we'll try him there, but he can hit second, third or fourth."
As a career .306 hitter with excellent line-drive power, Rodriguez is a threat anywhere in the order. Rodriguez had only one at-bat in the second slot in 2004. This year, 47 of 111 at-bats have been at No. 2. The larger question, however, is where his batting skills are best utilized. Which raises an even bigger question about whether the men in the dugout have radically changed the way they construct their lineups.
The modern "Moneyball" preoccupation with power, combined with the greatly increased emphasis on getting on base, would seem to be a perfect recipe for redefining the prototype of the No. 2 hitter. Even though the Red Sox won the World Series last year while voluntarily sacrificing only 12 times – 30 percent of the AL average – there are many teams still hanging onto the traditional philosophy for building a lineup. For example, the Angels, who led the league in sac hits in their glory year of 2002, continue to be among the AL leaders in bunting.
Traditionally, teams had three priorities when looking for someone to bat behind their leadoff hitters: good bat control, excellent strike zone judgment, and the ability to bunt. These qualities reinforced each other and were all cherished elements of the style of play that stressed manufacturing runs rather than waiting for the "big bang."
Bat control gave the traditional manager confidence when he called for the hit-and-run. It also made hitting behind the runner possible, another key element in the little ball philosophy.
A good eye gave the second-place hitter the ability to take pitches when the leadoff hitter was on base and likely to steal. Combined with bat control, it meant fewer strikeouts as well: Putting the ball in play was seen as the fundamental way to make things happen.
Bunting ability is crucial when one-run tactics are in vogue. Moreover, except for players with good power, the ability to lay down a sacrifice bunt has long been considered a marker of a complete hitter by traditionalists.
Even though overall scoring has come down somewhat from its peak in the 1990s, baseball is clearly still in an era when the offense, fueled by ferocious power hitting, dominates the game. Yet many teams have not yet realigned their lineups to reflect this change, as the stats for No. 2 hitters show.
To get some historical perspective, league-wide batting stats for No. 2 hitters were examined for four years: 1969, 1982, 1996, and 2004 (league-wide statistics by lineup order are not available prior to the 1960s). The first year with the lower mound height, 1969, was also when the expanded strike zone was restored to its traditional dimensions. The 1982 season marked the last time artificial turf replaced grass, when the Twins moved from Metropolitan Stadium to the bouncy, reviled turf of the Metrodome. The last year before interleague play (1996) was the first year since World War II that teams averaged more than five runs per game.
There is nothing surprising in the fact that as strikeouts have become much less of a badge of dishonor in the modern game, second-slot hitters have shown a much greater propensity to whiff. In 2004, AL No. 2 hitters fanned at almost exactly the league average rate, where they had been 14 percent less likely to strike out in 1982 (27 percent in 1969). NL No. 2 hitters, who had fanned only 65 percent as often as the league average in 1969, fanned 15 percent less often in 1996 and 21 percent less often last year.
There were mixed results found when comparing No. 2 hitters in batting average and on-base percentage over the modern era. Relative batting average for No. 2 hitters (i.e., batting average for No. 2 hitters compared to league-wide average) was significantly lower in the AL in 2004 than in 1969, 1982, or 1996. But that was not so in the NL, where the batting average of No. 2 hitters was lower in 2004 than in 1982 or 1996, but still higher than in 1969. The same was true with relative on-base percentage in the AL, where No. 2 hitters were substantially lower compared to their peers in the other three years. In the NL, after being higher in 1982 and 1996, relative OBP was almost down to its 1969 level last year.
A quite unexpected trend, however, is the frequency of sacrificing. Here, of course, the AL and NL differ greatly due to the DH rule. Yet No. 2 hitters in both leagues bunted much more frequently in 2004. The reason? As the importance of the sac bunt declines, the better bunters are still batting No. 2 on many teams.
Pictures of what No. 2 hitters looked like in 1969, 1982, 1996 and 2004 follow – with an emphasis on the differences between the AL and NL. All of which goes to show that the game does change, of course, but often not as fast as people think.
The reduction in the strike zone and lowering of the mound after 1968 led to much higher offense, but most managers didn't readjust their lineups to reflect this. The typical AL No. 2 batter hit .261 with 13 homers, 64 walks and 10 sacrifices. In the NL, the numbers were .263 with 10 homers, 54 walks and 11 sacrifices. No. 2 hitters in both leagues had slightly more on-base ability and slightly less power than average.
In 1969, only nine teams featured a No. 2 hitter with more than 400 at bats. None of those players was typical of the offensive production for the position. Paul Blair hit 25 homers for the Orioles in 550 at bats. Chicago Cubs bat-control whiz Glenn Beckert, on the other side of the spectrum, went deep just once in 543 at bats.
Minnesota's Rod Carew was perhaps most typical of the No. 2 hitters in terms of power, walks and sacrifices, though his .328 batting average was hardly typical. Tellingly, the Twins and Orioles, whose No. 2 batters scored the most runs in the league, led the AL in runs.
Ron Hunt of San Francisco and Luis Aparacio of the White Sox were also decent representatives of the No. 2 hitter in 1969, although both got on base more and hit for slightly less power than the average No. 2. Curt Flood was also representative, though he got on base a bit less. All three of them knew how to lay down a bunt.
The typical AL No. 2 hitter had league-average power and above-average on-base, while the NL's typical No. 2 got on base but didn't hit for much pop. As expected, AL hitters weren't using the sacrifice as often as their NL counterparts.
Bad teams in both leagues often featured rotating No. 2 hitters, none of whom was productive enough to spur the offense. Superstar Robin Yount of the Brewers, who scored 123 runs while batting second in 1982, drove the No. 2 spot's average productivity way up that year, but some of the more successful AL teams were also using good hitters rather than typical bat-control players in the No. 2 spot. Examples were Chicago's Tony Bernazard and Oakland's Dwayne Murphy – hitters who would take a walk and could hit for power.
Pete Rose was a fairly representative No. 2 hitter in the NL in the early 1980s. He got on base enough to be useful and knew how to move runners along while lacking power. San Diego's Juan Bonilla was another kind of hitter used in the two hole in the NL back then, even though his on-base skills were below average.
Oddly enough, in 1996 – then the apex of the home run boom – AL No. 2 batters were, on average, sacrificing as often as they had 14 years before, even though the rest of the lineup had largely eschewed the sac bunt. NL hitters were not relying on the bunt nearly as often, and most bunting in 1996 came from power-thin teams struggling to score runs.
The typical second-place hitter in the AL in 1996 was on base more often than normal, but had a little less power and remained a better contact hitter. Star players like John Valentin of the Red Sox, Alex Rodriguez of Seattle, Bernie Williams of the Yankees and Roberto Alomar of the Orioles were very productive when hitting second. The league's prototypical No. 2 was Ivan Rodriguez of Texas, whose .296 average, .337 OBP and .464 slugging percentage were very close to the league average for the two hole.
In 1996, NL second-place hitters were more productive than the average hitter. Some of the better No. 2 hitters were Al Martin of the Pirates, Craig Biggio of the Astros, Ray Lankford of the Cardinals, and the Padres' duo of Steve Finley and Tony Gwynn. The No. 2 hitter closest to the league average was Montreal's Mike Lansing, who for a few seasons was a productive player.
AL second-place hitters were close to normal in batting average and on-base percentage, with a little less power. Bunting from the No. 2 hole remained consistent with 1982 and 1996 despite its sharp decline overall.
Orlando Hudson of Toronto was the typical No. 2 last year, though he batted second in only 68 games. Seattle's Randy Winn and Derek Jeter of the Yankees were also close to the league average for that lineup slot. AL Central champion Minnesota had particularly terrible production from the second slot, posting just a .609 OPS.
In the NL, many teams appeared to be retrenching, moving back toward the traditional No. 2 bat-control model. Second-slot hitters were bunting far more often. Even weirder, teams playing in power parks like Atlanta, Colorado, Chicago and Houston tended to bunt more often from the second spot than teams in pitchers' parks like Los Angeles, San Diego and New York.
Royce Clayton of the Rockies and Jack Wilson of the Pirates were emblematic of second-slot hitters in the NL last year. Only five NL clubs boasted a player who appeared in 100 or more games in the No. 2 spot, as most clubs used a mix-and-match philosophy. Little-ball players like Adam Everett of Houston, Cesar Izturis of Los Angeles, Alex Cintron of Arizona and Endy Chavez of Montreal reinforced the surprising retro trend in the league.
Gary Gillette is the editor of the 2005 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, which was published in March by Sterling. Click here to order a copy. Gary can be reached via e-mail at mailto:GGillette@247Baseball.com
Stuart Shea also contributed on this piece. Shea is an associate editor of the 2005 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia and author of "Wrigley Field: The Unauthorized Biography." Click here to order a copy or to contact Stu.