All throughout the winter, everyone has been asking who should bat lead-off for the Dodgers? While it is a good valid question, I think we should be also asking another similar question. Why is there nobody asking who should bat eighth? Think about it for a moment. Have you been wondering that as well? Today we will take a look and ask, who should bat eighth for the 2013 Dodgers?
Some of the stat kids will have you believe that the batting order doesn’t matter much in the end. But it does matter. You hear a lot of other managers talk about turnover, or lineup turnover. So you may ask yourself, what is turnover? Lineup turnover is when the number eight hitter gets on base during an inning, allowing the pitcher to hit, and thereby getting the pitcher’s spot out of the way. That’s lineup turnover. Generally speaking you want someone who can get on base to bat in the eighth spot, but at the same time you don’t want to bury anyone there like A.J. Ellis was buried there for much of the 2012 season.
We’ve been advocating for Don Mattingly to swap the Ellis’s in the lineup for a long time now. Mattingly didn’t subscribe to this notion, and instead insisted on Batting A.J. eighth, and Mark Ellis second all throughout last season. Is that what’s best for the team? Did batting A.J. eighth help the team in run creation? Well let’s take a look at the numbers. Dodger eighth place hitters ranked 20 in Baseball last season. The Dodger number eight hitters posted a triple slash line of .236/.320/.342 with eight home runs, 46 RBI, and a .662 OPS. Those numbers ranked them at the bottom or near the bottom of the league all season. Although the Dodger eighth place hitters drew 61 walks, which ranked them third highest in all of Baseball.
Despite all of the walks, batting A.J. in the eight spot just didn’t help the Dodgers score more runs. As a matter of fact, it made no difference, since the Dodgers still ranked near the bottom half in number eight hitters. They ranked near the bottom in OBP, slugging, and runs batted in. The thing is, it’s kind of a catch-22. You want the number eight hitter to be someone who can get on base, but it can’t be anyone too productive, because otherwise they are buried at the bottom of the lineup. The fact is the top three hitters in a lineup receive more at-bats than the rest of the lineup. The one universal truth of building a great flexible batting lineup, is that the top three hitters at getting on base should bat 1-2-3, or at least the top two. Then who should bat eighth?
Take a look at the numbers below. I have included all eight Dodger regulars, and their career numbers batting eighth. Note, that I included the 2012 numbers for A.J. Ellis. As you can see, A.J. still did very well batting number 8. He batted .277 and drew 40 walks in the 8 hole. Check out how poor, Luis Cruz has done while batting number eight. So who has put up the best numbers batting in the eight spot? Why it’s Mark Ellis of course. (Matt Kemp actually put up the best numbers batting eighth, but of course the Dodgers aren’t going to bat Bison eighth. Obviously, but I digress.) Looking even further, the Dodgers only collected 181 total bases from their number eight hitters, with a WRC+ of only 91 all season. This should give you a better idea of how the 2013 Dodger lineup should be created.
Carl Crawford .238/.77/.347 7 BB 1 HR
A.J. Ellis .273/.363/.384 55 BB 8HR-2012-.277/.376/.417 40 BB 7 HR
Matt Kemp .368/.437/.640 16 BB 8 HR
Adrian Gonzalez .233/.294/.367
Hanley Ramirez (3 for 4)
Andre Ethier .301/.381/.441 17 BB 2 HR
Luis Cruz .180/.244/.221
Mark Ellis .306/.368/.450 45 BB 11 HR
Yes, Mark Ellis is batting over .300 in the eight hole. And look at his on base percentage as a number eight hitter. He’s drawn 45 walks, and even smacked 11 home runs from the bottom of the lineup. The numbers don’t lie. The best number eight hitter the Dodgers have is Mark Ellis. This means, as we have said many times, Mark and A.J. should swap places in the lineup.
Who do you think the Dodgers should bat eighth? Should the eighth place hitter be someone who can draw walks? Let us know what you think, and participate in the poll below. Walks at times can be just as good as a hit, but hits are always better. That’s why it doesn’t matter much how many walks you draw in that eight spot. As you can see form the numbers above, if you aren’t getting hits from your number eight hitter, then it won’t make much of a difference.
Run creation is made much easier when the right players are placed in the right spots in the lineup. Having the right players in the right spots in the lineup also helps with the team chemistry. Obviously Mark Ellis is the perfect eighth place hitter. Let’s just hope that this is something that manager Don Mattingly and the Dodgers have already looked into. Because if last year’s offensive numbers, and run production is any indicator, then the Dodgers are going to need all the help they can get.