Jerry Manuel is absolutely clueless on the true value of a #2 hitter. We see this each day as he trots out Luis Castillo or Alex Cora in one of the most valuable spots in the lineup. There is no question that Luis Castillo and Alex Cora are hurting the team from the #2 hole.
Last night it was Alex Cora's turn. Yes, the same Alex Cora that has a .615 OPS:
|2010 Season Stats|
A #2 hitter in the lineup will get key at-bats and must be able to contribute in a plethora of way, from getting on base, to hitting with power, to working counts and moving runners along as the key cog between leadoff and the big power behind them. Jerry sees Alex Cora and Luis Castillo in that role for their ability to bunt, which is another way of giving up the most precious asset an offense has--outs.
I would ask Jerry simply this--is the value of a potential bunt worth more than the value of a player that can get on base, hit extra base hits, and drive in runs?
Every bit of mathematical analysis says that you bat your second best hitter second if you want to maximize your lineup.
From the wonderful article on optimizing your lineup from Beyond the Boxscore:
Lead-OffThe old-school book says to put a speedy guy up top. Power isn't important, and OBP is nice, but comes second to speed.
The Book says OBP is king. The lead-off hitter comes to bat only 36% of the time with a runner on base, versus 44% of the time for the next lowest spot in the lineup, so why waste homeruns? The lead-off hitter also comes to the plate the most times per game, so why give away outs? As for speed, stealing bases is most valuable in front of singles hitters, and since the top of the order is going to be full of power hitters, they're not as important. The lead-off hitter is one of the best three hitters on the team, the guy without homerun power. Speed is nice, as this batter will have plenty of chances to run the bases with good hitters behind him.
The Two HoleThe old-school book says to put a bat-control guy here. Not a great hitter, but someone who can move the lead-off hitter over for one of the next two hitters to drive in.
The Books says the #2 hitter comes to bat in situations about as important as the #3 hitter, but more often. That means the #2 hitter should be better than the #3 guy, and one of the best three hitters overall. And since he bats with the bases empty more often than the hitters behind him, he should be a high-OBP player. Doesn't sound like someone who should be sacrificing, does it?
The Third SpotThe old-school book says to put your best high-average hitter here. The lead-off hitter should already be in scoring position and a hit drives him in. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am.
The Book says the #3 hitter comes to the plate with, on average, fewer runners on base than the #4 or #5 hitters. So why focus on putting a guy who can knock in runs in the #3 spot, when the two spots after him can benefit from it more? Surprisingly, because he comes to bat so often with two outs and no runners on base, the #3 hitter isn't nearly as important as we think. This is a spot to fill after more important spots are taken care of.
Are Luis Castillo and Alex Cora the Mets second best hitters? Clearly they are not, but we see Castillo and Cora in the 2 hole every day--like clockwork. Hey, they can bunt.
Big fucking deal.
|2-Hole At-Bats (minimum 70 at-bats)|