Thursday Lunch: Who’s Your 3-4? | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

After writing about Aoki’s value in the lead-off position on Tuesday, a gang of comments got me wondering about how National League managers’ use of the 3rd and 4th spots differed from the lead-off spot. I am interested in how managers use their 3rd and 4th batting order spots for two reasons: (1) they placed their most productive bats there, on average; and, (2) since managers employed their “regular” NL lead-off batters in only 57.4% of total lead-off PA, I suspected that managers used their most productive batters in more “regular” scenarios.

Again, I am surprised by National League managers. Frankly, after watching the 2012 Brewers, researching the extreme 2012 replacement environment for starting pitchers in the NL, and looking at the roles served by “regular” lead-off batters, I am now more convinced than ever that having a successful baseball season is either: (a) contributed to health, or (b) contributed to one hell of a contingency plan. Once again, although NL managers employed their “regular” 3rd spot batters much more frequently than lead-off batters, NL managers only received 50.6% of their 4th spot PA from “regular” clean-up batters. What this means is, judging NL clean-up batters that played approximately 1/3 (or more) of their games batting 4th, those 15 batters accumulated only 50.6% of the 2012 NL 4th spot PA.

Shockingly, National League managers actually used their lead-off batters more regularly than their clean-up batters, even though their lead-off batters were their seventh most valuable bats overall. This SCREAMS to me that managers indeed look for very specific roles for their lead-off bat — even if they don’t have a regular clean-up hitter, they’re still going to put power in that position, whereas if they don’t have a regular lead-off batter, they’re not going to stick just anyone in the 1st spot. It’s interesting to think that even when everything’s going wrong with a batting order, and there aren’t many regular players available, managers will stick with expected batting order profiles.

Meanwhile, the 3rd spot not only enjoys the NL’s best batting performance (on average), but they also enjoy an extremely regular cast of characters. The 3rd batters that played 1/3 (or more) of their games batting 3rd accumulated 72.5% of the overall 3rd spot PA. I believe in one of my comments yesterday, I suggested that teams might have one or two really good bats, and place those bats in the 3rd and 4th spots; really, it looks like teams mostly have ONE strong, dependable bat, and that bat goes 3rd. Everyone else appears to be a shifting cast of characters.

Of course, the Brewers once again have an advantage over the National League with their 3-4 batters. Not only do they have back-to-back MVP-worthy performances from Ryan Braun, but they were able to move from Prince Fielder to a near-full season from Aramis Ramirez — a downgrade, sure, but that’s like moving from kobe beef to free-range chicken. Anyway, more surprising facts — only ONE other team received 100+ G from both their 3rd and 4th hitters, besides the Brewers. Braun and Ramirez both landed more than 140 G in the middle order for the Brewers, while Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche both landed more than 105 G in the middle order for the Washington Nationals. Nine other teams received 100+ G from either their 3rd or 4th batter; everyone else threw together a cast of characters.

So, to go along with our list of batters that played approximately 1/3 (or more) of their games at lead-off, here are the National League players that served approximately 1/3 of their games batting either 3rd or 4th. The lone repeat from yesterday is Jose Reyes, who worked as both a lead-off and third bat for the Miami Marlins last year.

3rd:
Holliday (StL): 154 G, 685 PA, 95 R, 102 RBI, .297/.381/.500
Braun (Mil): 153 G, 676 PA, 108 R, 112 RBI, .320/.392/.596
McCutchen (Pit): 156 G, 672 PA, 107 R, 96 RBI, .328/.400/.554
Zimmerman (Was): 145 G, 641 PA, 93 R, 95 RBI, .282/.346/.478
Wright (NYM): 144 G, 623 PA, 81 R, 86 RBI, .301/.385/.488
Headley (SD): 141 G, 622 PA, 86 R, 105 RBI, .280/.373/.499
Gonzalez (Col): 113 G, 499 PA, 81 R, 76 RBI, .308/.369/.533
Votto (Cin): 109 G, 473 PA, 59 R, 55 RBI, .333/.471/.565
Upton (Ari): 102 G, 445 PA, 72 R, 43 RBI, .274/.355/.405
Kemp (LAD): 97 G, 413 PA, 71 R, 67 RBI, .320/.385/.566
Cabrera (SF): 89 G, 395 PA, 70 R, 52 RBI, .363/.401/.547
Heyward (Atl): 83 G, 363 PA, 49 R, 44 RBI, .253/.320/.439
Utley (Phi): 81 G, 360 PA, 48 R, 45 RBI, .254/.364/.428
Rizzo (Chc): 82 G, 352 PA, 44 R, 46 RBI, .290/.349/.470
Sandoval (SF): 68 G, 291 PA, 40 R, 45 RBI, .284/.344/.444
Ramirez (total): 65 G, 279 PA, 34 R, 38 RBI, .259/.337/.457
Reyes (Mia): 63 G, 277 PA, 38 R, 31 RBI, .308/.359/.484
Castro (ChC): 56 G, 242 PA, 22 R, 30 RBI, .282/.306/.388
No: Houston Astros

18 batters: 8308 PA (.725)

4th:
Ramirez (Mil): 143 G, 613 PA, 91 R, 102 RBI, .296/.354/.540
Posey (SF): 142 G, 600 PA, 78 R, 102 RBI, .336/.408/.551
Soriano (ChC): 121 G, 491 PA, 58 R, 89 RBI, .252/.312/.493
LaRoche (Was): 105 G, 450 PA, 52 R, 72 RBI, .256/.333/.500
Lee (total): 99 G, 417 PA, 36 R, 51 RBI, .285/.345/.385
Jones (Pit): 98 G, 385 PA, 57 R, 70 RBI, .286/.335/.526
Beltran (StL): 82 G, 364 PA, 48 R, 64 RBI, .264/.332/.475
Quentin (SD): 76 G, 326 PA, 44 R, 45 RBI, .259/.368/.507
Ethier (LAD): 76 G, 323 PA, 46 R, 50 RBI, .297/.368/.486
Phillips (Cin): 73 G, 309 PA, 45 R, 50 RBI, .303/.344/.460
Craig (StL): 64 G, 287 PA, 35 R, 52 RBI, .303/.348/.494
Howard (Phi): 66 G, 286 PA, 28 R, 56 RBI, .220/.297/.429
Davis (NYM): 68 G, 280 PA, 41 R, 54 RBI, .252/.332/.602
Goldschmidt (Ari): 63 G, 270 PA, 41 R, 33 RBI, .265/.348/.436
Jones (Atl): 62 G, 263 PA, 33 R, 28 RBI, .284/.380/.427
No: Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins

15 batters: 5664 PA (.506)

Stats from Baseball-Reference.com. Sports-Reference, LLC. 2000-2012.

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. TrollFighter says: November 15, 2012

    Thanks for putting this research together. I was having a discussion the other day on the JSOnlne blogs about Aoki and batting order value so I’m extra interested in these last couple articles.

    • Nicholas Zettel says: November 16, 2012

      Thank you for reading, and for the kind comments! I love these sorts of little factoids, I am glad others are enjoying them, too!

  2. The_Ignitor says: November 16, 2012

    I know Braun is a fixture at #3 forever however it would be interesting and fun to go Braun #2, Ramirez #3 and Lucroy #4.

    Before you Crucify me, hear me out. At #2 Braun would get about 15 or so more plate appearances throughout the season. At #3 Ramirez would get another 15 or so more PA’s throughout the season. That is about 30 more chances for our 2 best hitters to make an impact. Our 3 best hitters are hitting 2, 3, 4. and Our 4 best OBP guys are hitting 1, 2, 3, 4.

    My best reason is Lucroy hit .300 in 2011 with runners in Scoring position. 40 points higher than his normal average. In 2012 he hit .390 with runners in Scoring position. 70 points higher than his normal average. I would give him as many opportunities as possible with your 3 best OBP guys in front of him.

    However nobody said I was rational when talking about Lucroy.

    • Nicholas Zettel says: November 16, 2012

      That’s a wild idea. I would LOVE to see the Brewers bat Braun higher; I guess I’d just given up on the idea of seeing it happen.

      I think you make a compelling case with Lucroy, although I think he’s such a flexible bat, he’d work just about anywhere.

      Thank you for reading, and commenting!

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