By Alfredo Alvarez
Miami – Traditionally, batter hitting second in the lineup were the contact hitters, with good control of the zone, with the ability to hit behind the runner, hit the ball well and sacrifice moving the runner on first. If you look at statistics, this has been consistent during the Expansion era of Major League Baseball (1961-present), where the second in the order has the most contact hits compared to any other position in the league. But in recent seasons, where baseball is increasingly inclined to analytics, modern knowledge suggests that the most important positions in the lineup are No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4, depending on factors such as the number of runners that can be on base and the number of outs with which they can hit. And those same statistics show that the most talented hitter must hit second.
This new idea is far from the conventional wisdom of placing the best hitter third or fourth, and putting a specialist in contact as second in the order. But since we already see such good hitters in the second position, this seems to be a sign that the sabermetrics are already taken the mind of all the general management of the MLB teams.
If we look at the 1980s and early 1990s, players like Ryne Sandberg, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Roberto Alomar, Julio Franco and Lou Whitaker were putting incredible numbers in that part of the lineup. The Sabermetrics has come a long way since the first analysts began to play with mathematical models, and certainly there are places where statistical thinking has reached the field (for example, the explosion of defensive changes in today’s game, where it is calculated by where most of the hits will go). But when it comes to the second hitter in the lineup, there is not much talk or in fact, we still have little knowledge.
Some notable names that have been used in the last seasons in the second turn are: Mike Trout of Los Angeles Angels, Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds, Mike Moustakas playing for Kansas, Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays, Aaron Judge of the Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton when he played for the Marlins and Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo in the Chicago Cubs. All with excellent production in that order. Including MVP awards won by Stanton in 2017 and Trout in 2016 and 2014.
In my opinion, the most obvious reason is that n. ° 2 hitters have more plate appearances than the n. 3.
However, this does not explain why the power hitters are beginning to sneak into the n. ° 2 versus n. 3. Since, the batting order itself is relatively unimportant after the first inning, since there is no guarantee that batters will hit in their given roles. The first inning is guaranteed, of course, and after that, who knows?
To conclude, let’s wait for the new baseball mathematicians to speak, and that the teachings of the pioneer Bill James (Creator of Sabermetrics in its origins), show us a true concrete explanation of this new trend, which for now seems to be serious and every day more useful.
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