Mar
02

Sending Teixeira to bat with men on base

By

Simple concepts dictate baseball lineup construction. The top two hitters in the order get in base so that the heavier hitters in the middle of the lineup can drive them in. This is why we typically see the best power bats in the 3-4-5 spots, while the lighter hitting players bat on either side. Teams can run into problems, however, in filling the first two spots.

Again, the primary goal of the first two hitters is to get on base for the power hitters. That gives the heavier bats more opportunities to knock in runs. The problem in filling the first two spots relates back to those power guys. Oftentimes they’re also the best on-base guys on the team. In fact, on-base skills don’t come easy to players who lack power. Among active players, only five have a career OBP over .350 and a career ISO under .120: Luis Castillo, Chone Figgins, Jason Kendall, Mark Loretta, and Ichiro. Raising the ISO to .150 adds only eight names (including Derek Jeter). This is not an easy to find skill, on-base without power.

As a substitute for on-base skill, we often see teams place speedy hitters in the first and second slots. The rationale goes, so I assume, that they can advance more bases, both by stealing and by taking the extra bag on a base hit. The problem, of course, is that they don’t get on base a lot in the first place, so they can’t swipe or take an extra bag very often. Even then, with the heart of the order due up, the most important thing remains having runners on base. I’d far rather have a slow runner on base 40 percent of the time than a fast runner on base 34 percent.

This concept applies to one of the few decisions the Yankees must make in spring training. While Brian Cashman has stated his desire to have Nick Johnson hit second, it doesn’t appear to be a given at this point. It should be, but it’s not. The alternatives include Curtis Granderson and, to a lesser extent, Robinson Cano. Both might be solid No. 2 hitters, but with Johnson on the roster they’re not the best options. WIth Jeter and Johnson setting the table, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez will come to bat with more men on base.


Photo credit: Eric Gay/AP

To illustrate this point, let’s take an ideal scenario. Jeter and Johnson both hit in front of Teixeira for all of Teixeira’s plate appearances, and they OBP somewhere around their 2009 totals, .400 and .420. Running a quick percentage check, this means that Teixeira would come to bat with both runners on 16.8 percent of the time, and at least one runner on about 65 percent of the time. Given Teixeira’s 707 plate appearances from 2009, that means he’d come to bat with at least one runner on 460 times, and two runners on 119 times.

(This, of course, discounts the double play, but it also discounts the No. 9 hitter getting on. Let’s call it a wash for now, though if someone wants to run the numbers be my guest.)

Last year, with Jeter’s .400 OBP and Damon’s .365, Teixeira had a 14.6 percent chance of coming to the plate with both runners on, or 62 percent with at least one runner on. That gives him a theoretical 438 PA with a runner on base, and 103 with two runners on . His actual number of plate appearances with a runner on base was 371, a bit below the theoretical mark. This is due to double plays — Damon hit into nine last year — instances where Jeter made the last out of the inning, and times when Damon hit a home run. We also can’t expect the numbers to line up exactly.

Assuming an even ratio of theoretical plate appearances with a runner on to the actual number, that would give Teixeira 389 PA this season with at least one runner on, an increase of 18 instances. In other words, that’s 18 more opportunities for a double or home run to plate an extra run. Then there’s the cumulative effect. If Jeter and Johnson getting on base increases Teixeira’s chances of success, that can further increase A-Rod‘s chances of success. We can continue passing the buck down the lineup.

If Granderson recovers to his 2008 form, he’s essentially a clone of Damon. While that’s good, and while he’ll be able to take extra bases that Johnson will not, I think that the added plate appearances give the Yankees a bigger advantage. It means more opportunities for Tex and A-Rod. While Granderson might be able to score from second, or even first, in a few more instances than Johnson, he won’t be on base as much and therefore won’t get as many opportunities.

Joe Girardi has many options when filling out his lineup card, especially in the No. 2 spot. The three players who could hit there each bring a different skill to the table. Cano can advance runners with base hits and hit them in with power. Johnson can get on base to set the table and also hits for decent average (hopefully his power recovers a bit). Granderson can clear the bases with power and circle them with speed. Given the number of times he figures to be on base, I think Johnson is the choice here. The thought of Teixeira and A-Rod coming to bat with more runners on base should make any Yankees fan salivate.

Categories : Offense

199 Comments»

  1. Bo says:

    They cannot possibly think about putting Cano 2. his lack of patience is death there. He should hit 5-7 and just let him drive in runs. The only one that makes sense at 2 is NJ. Why else would they have brought him in? The key will be when NJ is on the DL. Who hits 2?

  2. Steve H says:

    Are you trying to say Wily Tavares isn’t a good leadoff hitter?

    Sincerely,

    Dusty Baker
    Killing arms since 1993

    • Thomas says:

      On-base percentage is great if you can score runs and do something with that on-base percentage, clogging up the bases isn’t that great to me.

      Sincerely,
      Dusty Baker

      PS Mark Prior is a sissy.

  3. The Evil Umpire says:

    This will also be NJ’s second season back after a wrist injury, which hopefully should see him recover some of his power. He’s going to present more RISP situations for Tex and Arod if he can muster 30+ doubles this year along with 20-25 HRs.

  4. OBPOBPOBP

    If OBP’s so important, then why don’t they put it on the scoreboard?

  5. Guest says:

    I think Mike made the point in another post that over the course of a season, Johnson will actually score from second on a single more often than Granderson, go first to third more often, etc. The reasoning, of course, is simple: He will “take the extra base” more often because he will have more opportunities to do it since he will be on base more frequently. Of course, this doesn’t even take into consideration all those other times when Johnson doesn’t “take the extra base” but still helps the Yankees out by doing the most important thing a hitter could do: Not make an out.

    I actually this is the kind of thing that might get through to the MSM if they were presented with it. If someone actually sat down John Harper, Joel Sherman, et. al and said “Nick Johnson scored from second on a single X times and Granderson only did it Y times,” the light bulb might actually go off. It would be akin to when Keeanu Reeves realized that, yes, there is no spoon.

    With that settled, they can go back to writing about our favorite cow in the meadow, Phil Hughes.

  6. Cecala says:

    I really can not see an argument for any other batter besides for NJ. It just makes sense for him to bat second. Even Bo agrees on this.

    • Dirty Pena: The Triple Entendre says:

      Even Bo agrees on this.

      I completely thought it was an open and shut case, until I found this out. Now I just don’t know what to believe anymore.

      • Although Granderson historically does well against RHP, NJ is the obvious choice to bat 2nd; someone might argue that they didn’t trade for Granderson to have him bat in the bottom of the line up, but they didn’t sign Granderson just for his bat; he has other tools, too. Johnson is pretty much just a bat on this team, what with Tex at first and all – not saying NJ isn’t a good 1B, bc I happen to think he’s great – but, my point is, the yankees brought NJ back to hit, walk – 420 it up. unless he gets hurt or he has a terrible april, he’s batting 2nd for a while in this lineup

  7. Joe B. says:

    Just as a point, this assumes that the inning in which Teixeira bats begins with the top of the lineup, skewing the actual number of times he would come up with runners on ahead of him. In about a third of his ABs, he’s going to be leading off an inning, and in another third or so only the 2-hitter will be up before him (again, not exact figures because it doesn’t account for innings longer than three batters, so it’s probably closer to a quarter for each).

    It’s a good approximation, especially when using the same method for last year’s numbers, but it’s not the whole story. Not that I could do any better, just thought it was worth mentioning.

  8. dkidd says:

    opening night in boston, top of the first: jeter singles up the middle on the first pitch of the season. nj draws a 9 pitch walk. tex works a hitters count, then rips a ground ball destined for right field. the balls hits a fenway pebble, takes a crazy hop, and breaks nj’s kneecap

    /dead zone-like premonition i experience whenever i touch my nick johnson rookie card’d

  9. Kiersten says:

    “To illustrate this point, let’s take an ideal scenario. Jeter and Johnson both hit in front of Teixeira for all of Teixeira’s plate appearances, and they OBP somewhere around their 2009 totals, .400 and .420. Running a quick percentage check, this means that Teixeira would come to bat with both runners on 16.8 percent of the time, and at least one runner on about 65 percent of the time.”

    yes please.

  10. A.D. says:

    Basically worse case:

    Granderson: Very similar to Damon last year (as long as there’s some rebound)

    Johnson: Redic OBP upgrade (though slide GIDP downside)

    Sooooo its all gravy

  11. Jake says:

    “Cano can advance runners with base hits and hit them in with power.”

    Cano doesn’t do this. He’s not that kind of hitter. You need a patient hitter that can make a pitcher work for it. Damon was good at this. Granderson, Johnson or maybe even Winn.

    It depends on who’s healthy. Nick Johnson isn’t going to play a full season. He’s made of glass.

    • Steve H says:

      Nick Johnson heading into 2010 as a full time DH is a better health bet than Hideki Matsui was heading into 2009.

    • So Cano does not get base hits, and he does not hit for power? Because that’s what you say in your second sentence.

      • Kiersten says:

        He doesn’t hit for power because he is too impatient. or something.

      • Jake says:

        “Cano can advance runners with base hits and hit them in with power.”

        He doesn’t do it with men on base, and he never has. Your number 2 hitter should be able to work a count. He should be a professional hitter. Cano is not.

        • Tom Zig says:

          Cano doesn’t get paid?

        • Lifetime .280 hitter with men on base, with .425 slugging. So he doesn’t do it as well as he does with no one on, but let’s not paint him as Mario Mendoza or anything.

        • JobaWockeeZ says:

          Yes Cano and his batting line of .320/.350/.500 is not professional. Send that lazy bastard to the minors sicne he sucks so much.

          Oh look at his batting line is 2007 with RISP .290/.333/.441

          Yup he never advanced runners before.

          • Jake says:

            No sense in sending him to the minors, but the smart thing to do is to trade him for a guy like Matt Cain. Cano’s value will never be this high again. His numbers lie. 320 with over 20 homers, and there should be no debate about moving him into the 2 hole, but because he’s so careless at the plate, he probably won’t even get the chance.

            • JobaWockeeZ says:

              Matt Cain? Rofl. Good luck.

            • Chip says:

              And then we can take the small upgrade that we get for Cain over the Phil/Joba monster and trade that for a HUGE downgrade at second as Pena/Russo would now be there instead of Cano. You also didn’t mention the other prospects we’d have to probably send with. O yeah, and on what planet would the Giants want to trade away a cost-controlled all-star pitcher?

              • Jake says:

                Read it again, I said a guy LIKE Matt Cain.

                • Big Juan says:

                  Read it again, I said a guy LIKE Matt Cain.

                  The point still stands — if Cano is so useless, why would any team trade Matt Cain, or a pitcher like Matt Cain for him?

                  You can’t have it both ways.

                • Enough with this line of questioning. Clearly he thinks Cano isn’t so great and he wants to trade him, but he thinks other teams value Cano much more than he does.

                  Once and for all, if Jake doesn’t mind my putting his argument into different words:

                  Jake thinks Cano is overvalued on the market right now, and would like to trade him while his value is high.

                • Jake says:

                  I would trade Cano right now. I don’t think he’s a .320 hitter. He certainly didn’t have a bad year last year, but I’ve seen enough of him that I don’t think he’ll ever be a savvy hitter, and that is kind of player that wins in October for us.

                  Does he have value. Obviously, he does. Some teams are aggressive at the plate, and on one of those teams, he’d fit in well.

                  On the Yankees, his approach is different than the rest of the team. And that’s not a “sample size”, that’s the guy’s whole career.

              • ROBTEN says:

                on what planet would the Giants want to trade away a cost-controlled all-star pitcher?

                This planet, apparently:

                http://www.amazon.com/Planet-J.....B000NYQTX0

      • pat says:

        Robbie’s 85 RBI were actually all miscredited steals of home by various enterprising Yankees.

      • bexarama says:

        this guy really hates Cano.

        • Jake says:

          He doesn’t fit in. Not a Yankee.

          Yankees are patient hitters. I’d trade him now while his value is high.

          • bexarama says:

            He doesn’t fit in. Not a Yankee.
            Yeah everyone on the team really hates him. And, in fact, he is on the Yankee roster, so he is indeed a Yankee.

            Again, I can’t tell if you’re joking or not.

            • Dirty Pena: The Triple Entendre says:

              He’s not joking as evidenced by the other night.

              • bexarama says:

                Ever since I fell for that “Scout X” thing I will never believe anything ever again.

                • Dirty Pena: The Triple Entendre says:

                  Haha, fair enough. Actually on second glance at his comments, I think there’s a possibility this guy might be kidding.

            • Jake says:

              I’m not joking, but I think you’re having comprehending my posts. I’m not saying that his teammates don’t like him. I’m sure they do as I’d bet he’s a pretty cool guy to have a beer with.

              That said, The Yankees, classically, win with patience at the plate. 8 walks, and 8 hits.

              Cano is a hacker. Who else is?

              Jeter? No.
              Teix? No.
              Arod? No.
              Jorge? No.
              Swisher? No.
              Johnson? No.

              Follow me now?

              • Part of what you said is true.

                All of it is irrelevant and pointless, though.

              • Mike Axisa says:

                They won with Cano last year. Who would prefer at second? Utley, or Utley?

                • Jake says:

                  I’d prefer a Willie Randolph type. A guy who has a high IQ for the game.

                  While Cano is learning, and he’s improved tremendously defensively, he is still careless at the plate, and often in big spots.

                  Clearly, all of you watch a lot of Yankee games. I can’t understand how this escapes so many people.

                  Is he a talented player? Sure, he is. If his brain ever caught up with his ability, he’d be just as good as Utley.

                • bexarama says:

                  But this is much, much, much saner than what you were saying before, which, if I understand correctly, and apologies if I’m putting words in your mouth:
                  a. Cano isn’t particularly patient at the plate so he’s not really good for the top of the order. (Agreed. That doesn’t mean, however, that he can’t be patient at the plate at some point in the future.)
                  b. Cano’s power numbers and RBIs are a lie so he can’t bat fifth, sixth, seventh, etc.
                  c. We should just trade him for Cain or Zambrano.

                  You were basically saying he sucks, again, if I interpreted you correctly. And then, if people pointed out that he didn’t suck and you’re likely not gonna find a better 2B not named Chase Utley (who is only in the top ten, maybe top five players in all of baseball), you accused them of drinking the Cano Kool-Aid.

                  It’s unfair to say his brain isn’t in the game and he doesn’t have a high baseball IQ. That’s like all the people who say he doesn’t care, when, after a terrible 2008 for him, he went and worked extensively with Kevin Long to improve.

                • Here’s the question, though… Who? Who are the Yankees going to play at 2B? Is the gain they’ll experience from whatever they receive for Cano going to outweigh the loss they’ll experience when they go from Cano to an inferior 2Bman?

                  As much as you personally may not like Cano, he’s still one of the best 2Bmen in MLB, and he’s young and under team control for a few years. There’s a ton of value there. It’s highly unlikely that Player X + Replacement 2Bman Y is going to be more valuable than Cano + whoever Player X would displace.

                • bexarama says:

                  aaand what Mondesi said.

                • Jake says:

                  Bexarama, Cano has had 5 years.

                  I’m not saying he sucks. I think by saying that he’s the worst of the best, my point comes across better. He has a great swing. He hits to all fields.

                  The guy comes up in big spots, and he bails out the pitcher.
                  Do I have those stats memorized? No, and I dint plan to. If you watch every game, you learn a lot about player.

                  From my perspective, Cano’s value will never be higher. I’d be fine with trading him now for a young power arm. You put a talent like a Carlos Zambrano on the Yankees, and he’d be loved from day one.

                  I would like a guy like Orlando Hudson. A smart player. He can lay down a bunt, advance runners, wait for a pitch and he has no ego.

                  Since Cano isn’t going anywhere, we’ll get to see how does.
                  I hope I’m wrong, but usually I’m not.

          • pat says:

            Wait a minute, were you the guy who wanted to trade him for Edwin Jackson?

          • JobaWockeeZ says:

            Trade? I prefer the stalk, kidnap, beat the shit out of, kill, burn and bury the ashes plan.

            /Cano hate’d

          • JGS says:

            you know who else isn’t a very patient hitter? Derek Jeter

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      Is this sarcasm?

      Cano doesn’t do this. He’s not that kind of hitter. You need a patient hitter that can make a pitcher work for it. Damon was good at this. Granderson, Johnson or maybe even Winn.

      What? That’s completely false. He’s a powerful hitter. Joe didn’t say Cano will get a walk, he said Cano is a good power hitter and can advance runners on the bases. His .500 slugging speaks for itself.

  12. Tubby says:

    Batting NJ second is definitely the way to go. It will have a trickle-down, compounded interest effect on the entire lineup. I think the biggest beneficiary may be Jeter. Pitchers will have to come right at him because they know they have a 10-pitch AB coming up behind him.

    My belt holds my pants up. But my belt loops hold my belt up. Who is the real hero?

  13. dkidd says:

    belt = jeter
    belt loops = nj
    laotian teenager who stitched the belt loops onto the jeans = cashman

  14. Chip says:

    I really disagree with Granderson hitting second not only because he won’t get on as much but his speed is going to be largely negated as well. How often are you going to have him steal with A-Rod and Tex up behind him? If you bat him lower in the order, he’ll take off more often which will create more opportunities for the bottom of the order.

    • A.D. says:

      Yeah I think this is something that is overlooked with the “speed at the top” is that with great hitters behind there’s less steal attempts since you don’t want a guy thrown out with your best bats up.

  15. pete says:

    This will never happen, but I think Johnson should lead off, and A-Rod should hit 2nd instead of 4th. At this point, the overall difference between A-Rod and Tex, power-wise is not all that great. A-Rod, however, is a pretty consistent .400 OBP guy, and can also steal a base or two. If I had control o’ the team, I’d probably want to run out this lineup:

    Johnson
    Rodriguez
    Swisher
    Teixeira
    Jeter
    Posada
    Cano
    Granderson
    Gardner

    And I know, I’ve been changing “my” lineup for months, but until the season starts, i’ll be too bored not to.

  16. Steve H says:

    Did Jake just alex gonzalez this thread?

  17. Warren says:

    Seems like most Yankee fans would be sadden if nick Johnson stays healthy all season.

  18. Ana says:

    I’m generally a proponent of hitting Granderson 8th as opposed to hitting Swisher 8th, because Gardner, who’s hitting ninth, has basically one offensive tool — his speed. Putting a slow guy like Swish in front of him hinders his ability to use that tool.

    I think. However, I made one completely incorrect/unfeasible proposal today, and I’m not averse to being told I’ve made another one.

    • Meh, I think you’re in “win-win” territory. Granderson, Swisher, and Cano could really be any combination of 6-7-8 hitters you like. They’re all basically identical 120-140 OPS+ hitters who are power-intensive. They get there in different ways, but any ordering you choose is fine.

      I’d probably not hit Granderson 8th just to keep him away from Gardner, primarily because those two lefties are the two players in our everyday lineup most likely to struggle against lefty pitchers. That’s probably a slightly larger issue than the “Swisher on the basepaths directly in front of Gardner would cut down on Gardner’s steals attempts” issue, all things considered.

      I’d go Cano-Granderson-Swisher-Gardner. But really, any answer is acceptable.

    • Big Juan says:

      I’d like to see Gardner hit 8th while Swisher hits 9th.

      That way, you’d have three hitters with 2009 OBP’s of .371, .406 and .426, respectively, in front of A-Rod and Tex.

      • There is value to that idea. All the sabermetric research into lineup optimization indicates that the 8th spot in the order is the spot that contributes to the fewest amount of runs where your weakest hitter should be.

        It’s why LaRussa often hits his pitchers 8th, to have another good hitter up in front of his good leadoff hitters. I’d be down with that.

        1-Jeter R
        2-NickTheStick L
        3-Dead Texy S
        4-CentWAR Centaur™ R
        5-Urine Trouble S
        6-Mr. Never Comes Through In the Clutch L
        7-My Man 100 Grand L
        8-WinnGardThamHoff SLRR
        9-Swishahouse S

        I wonder if we’d want Swish hitting 7th and Granderson hitting 9th, though. You lose the superior OBP in front of Jeter, but you break up the potential L-L-L of that 6-7-8 spot.

    • A.D. says:

      Figure if Gardner is on and cannot steal, then Jeter has 2 men on, I’ll take it.

  19. David in Cal says:

    My guess is that Girardi likes the idea that there’s competition for the #2 spot in the order. In general, it follows the principle that something shouldn’t just be handed to anyone. But, I think Joe expects that NJ will be the guy.

    • Sounds right.

      It’s a competition because things should be competitions by principle, since competitions promote the best results, but someone has a headstart (at least in the manager’s mind) and they are the presumptive leader in that competition (although that leadership is unstated).

      • Chip says:

        Moreover it leaves them room to make changes when they see fit. They can say that they never made up their minds but after seeing NJ fall on his face for the first month of the season they’re going to give Granderson the job. That way, NJ wasn’t signed to be the “guy who hits behind Jeter”

  20. CapitalT says:

    Any numbers on Johnson’s GIDP propensity. I remember the arguments last year to bat Damon 2nd as he rarely hit into double plays while Jeter was the opposite.

    • Over his career Nick Johnson has come to bat 948 times with a runner on first, runners on first and second, runners on the corners, or bases loaded. He’s grounded into 72 double plays, or roughly once ever 13 PA.

      Of course, that doesn’t consider two-out situations. In his career, Johnson has accumulated 67.7 percent of his plate appearances with one or two outs in the inning. Applying this to the above sample, we get a double play once every 8.9 chances.

      How does this compare to other options? Clearly, this will be a post for tomorrow.

  21. Gardy's great! says:

    When does run scoring ability(speed and base running)trump Obp? How is it that Granderson scores more runs per pa then Johnson over their careers? Just look at Granderson’s woeful 08 stats when facing a pitcher the first time in a game and yet he scored 25 times.

    • bexarama says:

      Runs scored doesn’t really have anything to do with the player

      For example, look at the 2009 Phillies. Jimmy Rollins had FAR more runs scored than Carlos Ruiz. Jimmy Rollins had a .296 OBP (BAD), Carlos Ruiz had a .355 OBP (slightly above average). This is because the guys behind Rollins were Victorino, Utley, and Ryan Howard: very, very good hitters. The guys behind Ruiz were usually, like, Feliz, the pitcher, and Rollins. They are not very good hitters so there’s less of a chance they’re going to knock him in if he’s on base.

  22. [...] Sending Teixeira to bat with men on base | River Avenue Blues [...]

  23. [...] his wheels (stealing, advancing, etc.). What, then, is more valuable to the Yankees? Yesterday, in a post by Joe Pawlkowski of River Ave Blues regarding this very topic, Joe said, “while [Granderson [...]

  24. [...] 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 [...]

  25. [...] few days we’ve looked at a few aspects of a quality No. 2 hitter. We want someone who will get on base and set the table for the heart of the order, but who also won’t ground into double plays when the leadoff man [...]

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