Earlier today I complimented Kirk Gibson on how he’s worked the No. 2 spot in the order in these first two games, using Chris Young against the righty Tim Lincecum on Friday and Aaron Hill versus the lefty Madison Bumgarner today.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy, on the other hand, isn’t really looking for his No. 2 hitters to hit three homers in two games. Or really hit at all. The Rockies’ plan going into the spring was to open the season with Dexter Fowler leading off and Marco Scutaro hitting second. However, Fowler was so terribly lost at the plate this spring (.149 average, 17/3 K/BBin 67 AB) that the decision was made to switch the two. Because, I guess, the leadoff spot is so very much more important than the two hole?
This isn’t just a Rockies thing either. NL No. 2 hitters hit .256/.313/.369 last year. No. 8 hitters — already typically the worst hitter in most lineups and at the added disadvantage of hitting in front of the pitcher — were barely worse at .246/.315/.359. Every other spot in the lineup, except the pitcher’s, was better. Only the Phillies, with Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino manning the spot, got a .750 OPS from their No. 2 hitters last year. The Braves got a .747 OPS from their No. 8 hitters and a .644 OPS from their No. 2 hitters. The Nationals and Diamondbacks (hopefully Gibson is figuring this out) also got much better results from the eighth spot than the two hole.
And all of this has never made sense to me. The No. 2 hitter is probably more important in the act of scoring runs than the leadoff man is, since he gets to hit with more guys on base. He may be more important than the No. 3 hitter, too, since he doesn’t come up with two outs and none on nearly as often as a No. 3 hitter does. Lineup simulations will often suggest batting a team’s best hitter second, and while that may be controversial, it’s still just common sense that you’d want one of your better hitters up there so close to the top of the lineup.
Which Fowler might be. But the Rockies have him hitting second because and only because he’s struggling right now. If they thought he was going to hit like he did last year, he’d be leading off instead. Batting him second while he’s racking up outs like this will cost the team runs and maybe a win or two down the line. It’d make a lot more sense to hit him seventh or eighth instead and maybe get Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki up with some men on base.
The Cardinals dropped Thursday afternoon’s series finale to the Mets in heartbreaking fashion. With the game tied 2-2 in the ninth inning, closer Trevor Rosenthal was trying to see his way out of a jam. The Mets had runners on the corners with two outs.
Jose Reyes swung at the first pitch he saw from Rosenthal, grounding it down the first base line. Matt Carpenter snagged the ball and it looked like it’d be an inning-ending 3-1 putout, but Rosenthal didn’t cover first base. By the time he made his way to the bag, it was too late. Yoenis Cespedes touched home and Reyes stepped on the bag safely, walking the Mets off 3-2 winners.
The Cardinals, now 46-49, have dropped both series since the All-Star break.
MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosh has post-game quotes from Rosenthal and Carpenter:
FiveThirtyEight commissioned a survey through SurveyMonkey, polling 989 self-described baseball fans about their baseball fandom. They were asked which teams were their favorites both overall and by census region, which teams they found favorable among 10 randomly assigned teams, and which teams were their least favorite.
The good news for Yankees fans: the Yankees had the highest share of respondents who selected them as their favorite team. They came in at 10 percent, followed by the Red Sox, Cubs, and Braves at eight percent. The Yankees (28 percent) and Red Sox (23 percent) also made up more than half of the favorites in the northeast census region. The Yankees were third in the south (nine percent), 10th in the midwest (three percent), and sixth in the west (six percent).
The Yankees, however, were the only team with a higher unfavorable rating than favorable. 44 percent of respondents had a favorable view of the Yankees while 48 percent were unfavorable. The Phillies were next at 33 percent favorable and 29 percent unfavorable. The Yankees’ unfavorable rating was by far the highest; the Mets came in second at 35 percent.
A whopping 27 percent of respondents selected the Yankees as their most hated team. The Red Sox came in second at 10 percent followed by the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks (what?) at five percent. The Yankees were also selected as the most hated team in all four census regions: 34 percent in the northeast, 25 percent in the south, 28 percent in the midwest, and 26 percent in the west.
There has been some thought that the Derek Jeter-less Yankees, replete with up-and-coming players like Aaron Judge, may actually be likable. But this survey shows that, at least right now, they’re still the bane of many baseball fans’ existence.