I love Yasiel Puig. I love his ethnicity. I love his instagram. I love his whiny Spanglish. I love his ridiculous catches. I love his bat flips. I love his advanced stats. I love Yasiel Puig. We know what kind of a May he’s having. A .533 wOBA over a 28 day stretch will get you noticed. But there are some consequences to Puig’s recent mashing of baseballs.
Remember yesterday? Chone Figgins batting second? Yes, he was penciled in as batting second in the lineup by Don Mattingly. We know that later Hanley was medically cleared and we weren’t subjected to more AB’s from Chone Figgins as opposed to Yasiel Puig, but even in the updated lineup, Carl Crawford batted second. That in a vacuum isn’t horrendous. Crawford doesn’t walk, he doesn’t strike out. He is what an ideal “old school” number 2 hitter is.
There’s some logic to this approach. Have your leadoff guy get on, 2nd hole hitter makes contact, worst case scenario he gets moved over, and you have a runner in scoring position for your all-world #3 hitter. That’s what Dusty Baker made a living off of. That’s what Mike Scioscia is currently making a living off of. Of course, there is a significant problem with batting Figgins/Crawford/Ethier (today’s #2 hitter) in the 2 hole.
This means that your best hitter is getting less chances to hit in meaningful situations.
Lets take this article by Beyond The Box Score. Fairly interesting to see, what does advanced statistics say about the #3 spot?
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.
Okay, what about the #2 spot? There is no way that can be more important than the #3 spot, right?
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?
It’s a good thing Yasiel Puig isn’t batting 3rd or anyth…
#Dodgers 5/28 Lineup 1. Gordon 2. Ethier 3. Puig 4. Ramirez 5. Gonzalez 6. Kemp 7. Turner 8. Butera 9. Kershaw
— Daily MLB Lineups (@DailyMLBLineup) May 28, 2014
This guarantees Andre Ethier and Dee Gordon get more AB’s than Yasiel Puig. Dee Gordon, he of the 66 wRC+ in May, he of the .297 OBP since the beginning of May getting the most AB’s in the lineup. I have no qualms about Andre Ethier batting 2nd versus a right handed pitcher, but not over Yasiel Puig.
Not to mention that this is one of the times that conventional wisdom is wrong. The #3 hole hitter is more of a symbol of respect, not necessarily one where your best hitters should hit. Like that article said, your best hitters should go in your #1, #4, and #2 slots.
Yasiel Puig was optimizing the team’s lineup at the #2 spot, you could come at it from the angle that “lineup construction doesn’t really matter, and that complaining about it is probably a waste of energy”. And I understand that, but anytime you can optimize something, you do it, especially if batting Puig second scores an extra, I don’t know… 5 runs a year. Then it’s worth it. It’s a real shame that him being as hot as he is has put him in favor with this conventional thinking that your best hitter goes in the #3 spot when it probably hurts the team’s ability to score runs.