Avoiding the twin killing in the two hole

Yankees sign Myron Leslie
Almost trading Bernie Williams again and again

In discussing the merits of a No. 2 hitter, I hit on the value of setting the table. Because Nick Johnson gets on base at a better clip than the other candidates, he’ll create more opportunities for Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez to hit with men on base. But, while getting on base factors prominently into the quality of a No. 2 hitter, other issues can change the situation. For instance, what if the No. 2 hitter, who gets on base at a high clip, also grounds into a lot of double plays? Wouldn’t that sap his value?

About a year ago, while he was working with Team USA, I made a further argument for Derek Jeter the leadoff hitter. Beyond the reasons we’d heard a thousand times — Jeter got on base more than Damon while Damon had more power than Jeter — I thought another factor played prominently. In 2008 Jeter hit into 24 double plays, the highest number of his career. Many times, I’m sure, these double plays came after Damon reached safely. Damon, though, is historically good at avoiding double plays. Flipping the two, then, seemed obvious.

Just a few days after that post, Joe Girardi announced that he would make that very flip. The results, as we saw, reflected the projection. Jeter hit into fewer double plays. Damon hit into more, but that’s going to happen when the guy in front of you gets on base 40 percent of the time. This raises an interesting point. We don’t learn much from raw GIDP numbers, because they’re not placed in any context. What we seek is some kind of rate for GIDP — how many times the player hit into a double play when presented the opportunity. That seems like relevant information for a No.2 hitter.

Thankfully, Baseball Reference does have information about double play opportunities (under More Stats, then Situational Hitting).* So, among Johnson, Curtis Granderson, and Robinson Cano, who has hit into the most double plays per opportunity? We’ll add in Damon for comparison.

*When I originally wrote this article, I had no idea this existed. Thanks to B-R founder Sean Forman for pointing me in the right direction. This table is totally accurate.

Player GDP Opp Pct.
Johnson 72 594 12.1
Granderson 18 410 4.4
Cano 94 670 14.0
Damon 84 1591 5.3

Does Johnson’s GIDP propensity offset his better on-base skills? Sound like a good idea for another follow-up article.

Yankees sign Myron Leslie
Almost trading Bernie Williams again and again
  • AndrewYF

    Solution: Don’t let Johnson swing the bat when Jeter is on first. He’ll probably just get a walk if he prays hard enough.

    Anonymous Scout.

  • http://www.bbref.com/ Sean Forman

    Baseball-Reference.com has DP Opps for players. If you click on the “More Stats” just above the batting stats for a player we have DP opps in the Situational Hitting section.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      Thank you. I had no idea that number resided there. Very, very useful.

      • http://www.bbref.com/ Sean Forman

        Yeah, there is a lot of stuff on that More Stats page, but we appear to have hidden it very, very well…unfortunately.

        • A.D.

          I was completely unaware of the “More Stats” page. Great stuff.

  • http://www.bbref.com/ Sean Forman

    Just as an example. Granderson has had 410 DP opps in his career and 18 gidp.

    • andrew

      It would seem that is not the case from reading the article, but what do i know.

      • andrew

        I see the data though, so I wonder where Joe got his numbers.

  • KeithK

    Since 2002 Granderson has a 36%/43% GB/FB breakdown while Johnson has 44%/34%. That could explain a lot of the difference in double plays. Jeter is 56/23, again consistent with lots of double plays.

    Then again, Damon is 45/35, so it’s not just the ground balls vs. fly balls.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      A higher K% also keeps Granderson’s GIDPs low.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

        Could also be that Granderson has played much more at lead-off, which reduces the amount of GIDP opportunities.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

          But even though his opportunities are lower, so is his percentage. Look at the table. He’s remarkably good at avoiding the DP.

          • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

            I’m just learning how to read. Be patient, Joe! Sheesh.

        • Jack

          Right, that’s why his total chances number is low. It doesn’t explain why his percentage is lower.

          • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

            Yeah, yeah, yeah. True. Probably a combination of a few things. One, obviously very SSS. Two, he has good speed. Three, decent amount of Ks. Four, his GB/FB rate leans. Five, maybe the guys on in front of him had better speed/took big leads or they did hit-and-runs?

            It would be cool to know the situations for all to see a pattern.

  • Jack

    Nick Johnson definately seems like the kind of person who would appreciate two chicks outs at the same time.

    Great stuff, Joe.

  • Rick B

    Cool article. Given this statistic and Granderson’s superior speed and baserunning abilities I might prefer to see him in the two hole. Doesn’t really matter though, the lineup should be pretty awesome either way.

  • smurfy

    Hey, Joe. I thought of that, too. I used GIDP numbers divided by 100 pa. Easy, but I was really interested in Gardner’s, and it’s a small sample size. He’s intriguing, but he bails with a curving cut on what could be hit. Well, Jeter uses his dink to great effect.

  • Andy

    Why no Swish love??

    I don’t have any numbers, however, I do remember him succeeding in that role in limited PAs last season.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      Your memory is wrong, my friend. Nick Swisher in the two hole: 90 PAs: .250/.356/.474. He was best out of the 8 hole.

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals

        (best homer voice)
        “stupid facts…”

        ben what would be a good OPS for a #2? apparently .830 isnt enough…what would we expect and/or what would the league average be?

        (insert: this is how you use this tool to determine this number that doesnt exist that you want to find…HERE)

  • http://twitter.com/JamalG_BB Jamal G.

    Greg Fertel of Pending Pinstripes had a somewhat similar point in a post he wrote just a few weeks ago; however, his dealt with the perception that Nick Johnson was on another tier in terms of being a two-hole hitter when compared to Johnny Damon (spoiler: he is not). Using batting runs, base-running runs and double-play runs above average, he found that Johnson was only slightly better than the departed left fielder: http://bit.ly/bIDvK3

  • rainman

    Here’s my suggestion:

    What if nick johnson hits 3rd in the lineup and move tex to the 2nd spot to avoid double plays. Tex hits with power and decent speed at the bases. While Nick will drive Jete and Tex and eventually A-rod do what he do best..

    what do you think? :))

    • Bo

      Over thinking it.

      Why mess with Tex?

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals

        Don’t Mess With Tex(as)!

    • A.D.

      Tex does have a better GIDP rate than NJ, 9% career, 7% past 2 years. So there could be something there, but given Tex is the superior hitter, I’d prefer to keep him in 3 hole

      • Am I the only Kevin?

        Isn’t the “optimum” lineup supposed to have your second best hitter in the 2 spot, and your best in the 4 spot?

  • dkidd

    imho, c-grand’s lower dp% doesn’t make up for his 60 points lower career obp

    • The X

      Long time lurker…though pretty sure this is my first post. Maybe second. I don’t remember.

      I couldn’t help myself after seeing this though. I thought it was really interesting. Much more interesting than studying at the moment. Sorry for intruding on any article you guys are in the middle of writing….

      Playing around w/ those numbers…
      ****************************************************************which at the end I realized was mainly unnecessary. But screw it, no way I’m letting all this go to waste. Skip all this to the ** break if you want to ignore somewhat pointless math

      Batting in the #2 position, there can only be a DP situation if….

      1) #1 is at first, 0 or 1 outs, does not steal
      2) #9 is at first, 1 out, does not steal

      I’ll assume lasts years line up and stats for #1 and #9 (Jeter and Cabrera).

      All data from Baseball Reference:

      Jete:72 BBs, 166 Singles, 716 PA’s, 35 steal attempts
      Cabrera: 43 BBs, 91 singles, 540 PA’s, 12 steal attempts

      (Singles+Walks-Steal Attempts)/PA (aka 1B/PA)
      Jete: .2835
      Cabrera: .2259

      Sequences that would leave to a DP opportunity for #2 hitter…
      1) Walk/Single #1, 0 or 1 out.
      2) Walk/Single #9, 0 outs, #1 makes a non-DP out.

      To find out how many times these situations happen, first we need….

      Average PA/G
      Jete: 4.6797
      Cabrera 3.5065

      Next, we have to figure out how many of those PA’s came in the situations outlined above. Since I can’t find these online anywhere, I guess I’m gonna have to calculate them…

      Assuming that, disregarding the first AB of the game, the number of outs during each AB is evenly distributed (33% chance of coming up to bat w. 0, 1, or 2 outs)

      Average PA’s w/ 0 or 1 outs per game: (aka PA*prob0-1)
      Jete: 1 + (3.7697)*(.6666) = 3.4529

      Average PA’s w/ 0 outs per game: (aka PA*prob0)
      Cabrera: 3.5065 * (.3333)= 1.1687
      (PA)(prob0) * 1B/PA *
      Cabrera: 1.1687 * .2259 = .2640

      (PA) (prob0-1) * 1B/PA
      Jeter: 3.4529 * .2835 = .9789

      Sequences that would leave to a DP opportunity for #2 hitter…
      1) Walk/Single #1, 0 or 1 out. —> .9789 times per game
      2) Walk/Single #9, 0 outs, —-> .2640 times per game, #1 makes a non-DP out.

      #1 (Jeter) DP/DP opps percentage was 17% last year. His OBP was .406, meaning his anti-OBP was (1-.406) = .594) was So we get…

      Sequences that would leave to a DP opportunity for #2 hitter…
      1) (Walk/Single #1, 0 or 1 out) = .9789
      2) (Walk/Single #9, 0 outs) = .2640 * (#1 makes a only 1 out)=.594 – Chance of a SW and a DP (.2640 * .017)


      Adding everything together, we should get DP opportunities for #2 hitter per game.

      .9789 + .2640 * .594 – .00493 = 1.1308 DP opportunites for #2 hitter per game.

      So my calculations say that last year the #2 hitter should have had around 1.1308 DP Opps per game.

      Last year, the Yankees #2 hitter had 1.1189 DP Opps per game.

      So yea, I coulda just done that first. Woulda been much easier…

      But my calculations came out so well, no way I was gonna just let them disappear into oblivion. Plus, hopefully my calculations killed any random noise in Damon’s stats. So I’m gonna still use my numbers from here on out.

      Career GIDP% from Baseball Reference:
      Johnson: 12%
      Granderson: 4%
      Cano: 14%
      Damon: 5%

      1.1308 Expected DP Opps per game.

      Expected Double Plays ( 1.1308 * DIDP%) per game, if they batted #2 last year:
      Johnson: .1357
      Granderson: .0452
      Cano: .1583
      Damon: .05654

      Scaled to how many games they played last year:

      Johnson: 18.0481
      Granderson: 7.2320
      Cano: 25.4863
      Damon: 8.08522

      OBP is (roughly) the number of times you don’t make out. Therefore, OBP should be penalized by 1 additional “out” every time a DP is hit into.

      DP Scaled OBP (H + BB + HBP – DP) / (AB+BB+HBP+SF)
      Johnson: .3943
      Granderson: .3165
      Cano: .3138
      Damon: .3524


      For Johnson’s DP Scaled OBP to drop to what Damon did last year, he’d have to hit 44 (!) extra DP’s in 133 games, or 62 DP’s total. Which would require either a GIDP% of about 41%, or for him to have 3.885 GIDP Opportunities per game. That’s not happening.

      If what you want out of your 2nd hole is the not-making-outs skill, you want Nick Johnson hitting there.

      • Chops

        uhhh +1

      • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bring-Melvin-To-America/193013541601?ref=sgm Andy In Sunny Daytona

        “I told you, I’m good at calculation.”


      • The X

        small math mistake. messed up a percentage.

        In the expected DP Ops per game calculation
        .9789 + .2640 * .594 – .00493

        should be
        .9789 + .2640 * .594 – .0493 = 1.0901

        Which…in the end doesn’t change anything.

        It also disregards the fact that you can reach base on errors, or that advancing on a throw/error can make it so a player records a “single” but actually gets to second base. Also, I didn’t care to figure out how many times Jeter stole during Tex’s/Arod’s AB’s instead of Damon/Swish.

        But that’s too much work for too little accuracy gain. None of that is gonna boost GIDP opps per game to 3.885.

        Interesting result though: Granderson in the 2 hole might be better than Cano in the 2 hole because of the DP effect.

        But as I read this over again, all it really serves to prove is one thing: deep down inside, I’m a bigger math geek than I’d ever care to admit.

        • Jammy Jammers

          Wow. Xavier Nady did a lot of research in his time off.

          • king of fruitless hypotheticals

            …can we go back to fart jokes now?

            holy crap dude! that’s awesome. i like the platoon idea (see lower) and what this reinforced to me is:
            a) the yankees are awesome.
            b) my add is worse when i drink a coke before i go to bed the night before and i dont exercise
            c) hey look! fish!

            thanks for the hard work!

      • Rose

        What exactly did you have to study for today anyway? lol

        Pretty interesting read. I like doing that kind of stuff when I have time but I’m constantly minimizing this page as people walk by…it’s just almost impossible lol.

        Keep up the good work! Nick “The Big” Johnson is our guy.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

        My only issue here is that we’re assuming Granderson recovers to ~.360 OBP. If he OBPs like last year there’s no way you put him in the 2 hole.

      • theyankeewarrior

        This is great stuff man. I wonder if you could look into a platoon situation where Granderson bats second vs. righties and Johnson vs. lefties. C-Grand’s OBP soars vs. righties and that, along with his alarming I-don’t-GIDP-rate, might make him more valuable in those situations…

        Assuming you’re calculations and formulas are correct, if the Yankees don’t hire you, I’m gonna cancel my season tickets!

        /Bronx teacher’d

      • A.D.

        Quite the bang for a first post.

      • Snakes on the mother effin plane

        My mind. Blown.

        Hey X unless this is your field you’re in the wrong field.

      • ROBTEN

        This was an interesting read. I just wanted to say that I appreciate the time it took for you to work through these calculations.

        Plus, I have to say that I like “anti-OBP”; with its auditory correlation to “anti-matter,” you could use it to say that the higher the number, the more of a black hole of suck a particular hitter is. It’s like the ultimate back handed complement. For instance: Ronny Cedeno, your aOBP was a staggering .744 in 341 AB. No one was worse last year at getting on base than you!

  • Mac

    The question I have is do they pitch to Grandy differently in the 2 slot, vs. at the bottom of the order? Does\could that make a huge difference in how productive he is?

  • http://None Jake

    I think if Nj is protected by Teix, he will nicely at the plate, but he is Jorge slow.

    We also have to wait and see how Granderson adjusts to being a Yankee.
    I think he’s going to win that spot in the order.

  • Rose

    In all fairness, Robinson Cano hit the majority of his before Kevin Long started really working with him. Granted, he hit into MORE double plays last year in a breakout season…but that may be contributed to a bunch of other things.

    Also, Granderson and Nick Johnson haven’t worked with Kevin Long yet. And have also seen quite different situations in their respective previous roles with their former teams. Granderson led off with Detroit for the most part where he most certainly won’t for the Yankees. Where Nick Johnson did bat in the 2-hole…although his team was quite different than the team he’s on now. One could assume pitchers may pitch him a lot differently batting 2nd on the Yankees than batting 2nd on the Nationals.

    But correlation does not strike designate causation…so who knows. Just an idea.

    • Rose

      no idea how “strike” got the strikethrough there. I most certainly put imply but oh well.

    • http://None Jake

      Johnson has always been a good hitter.
      He’s certainly patient enough for two hole, but he’s so slow.

      Granderson is hopefully the guy. He has the speed, the experience
      and the pop. The best move is to find the closest thing to Damon, and it’s probably

      Winn is the dark horse. He probably won’t rebound entirely, but you never know.
      Sometimes guys do. Mike Lowell did.

  • Bo

    You know who would have been great in the #2 hole this yr?


    • pete

      johnson > damon.

    • Count Zero

      Wait — did you just ignore the entire post and ensuing comments so you could boldly state your pre-conceived version of the truth? I am truly shocked…

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      Johnny Damon, 2009 wRC+: 130
      Nick Johnson, 2009 wRC+: 130

      Even with all of Nick Johnson’s glacial slowness and propensity for GIDP, he still equaled Damon’s two-hole table-setting, run-scoring, offense-generating sparkpluggery last year.

      And Johnson’s 2009 campaign came in the offense-neutral and offense-negative home parks in Washington and Florida. He’s a near lock to get a nice YS3 power boost.

      Oh, and he’s 5 full years younger and cheaper to boot.

      Johnson >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Damon




      That works too.

  • Rob in CT

    For your followup article, you should probably also incorporate baserunning (I assume Granderson > Johnson there too). Stolen base % and EQBRR.

    Even then… the OBP difference is pretty huge. I imagine it would take a lot to overcome.

  • http://Ross Ross Trudeau

    “Does Johnson’s GIDP propensity offset his better on-base skills? Sound like a good idea for another follow-up article.”

    Sounds like a good idea for THIS article :P

    • http://Ross Ross Trudeau

      I went with the colon-lower case P emoticon, and it produced THAT. Definitely no tongue there.

  • Phishin’

    Isn’t there also something to be said about hitting in front of Teix/A-Rod?….I would have to assume that the #2 hitter would see more pitches to hit in most situations, meaning I think the better bat (imho) Granderson would thrive in that situation. I still think I want NJ hitting 2 though…either way, the line will be great.

  • pete

    Perrrsonally, I think A-Rod is the best fit in the #2 hole, with Johnson leading off.

  • http://twitter.com/riddering Riddering

    Dammit, RAB. You are always making us think rather than just accept things that sound good. Not content to leave Johnson’s OBP on a pedestal you have to introduce variables that could affect its effectiveness. *shakes fist*

    But seriously, this is a great question to ask in general. While I don’t think the GIDP numbers are serious enough to switch Johnson and Granderson as their other numbers stand now (OBP, splits v. pitchers, etc.) it’s definitely a great idea to look into for future lineup decisions, spreadsheet style.