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  • CAMPAIGN: Elect Joe Mauer for #2 Hitter

    Earlier last week, I looked at the Minnesota Twins possible candidates for the leadoff hitter role in 2013. With Denard Span and Ben Revere traded to the National League, there is some question about who will step up and earn the leadoff spot out of spring training. Aaron Hicks looks like the leadoff hitter of the future but that doesn't mean that he will start the year in Minnesota. This could leave a big hole in the first spot in the batting order.

    One candidate I discussed was catcher Joe Mauer.
    He consistently gets on base and this is a huge part of being the first batter in the order. In the end, I know the Twins won't move their $23 million man to the leadoff role but he could still find success in that spot. But with Ron Gardenhire as manager, it seems most likely that Mauer will be penciled into the number three spot. That is where Mauer got the majority of his at-bats in 2012 and there is no reason to think that would be different in the coming year. However, for the Twins to find more success in 2013, I am offering up another option.

    Mauer should be moved to the number two spot in the order.

    This seems like a plan that plenty of fans could get behind and support. For too long, fans have been accustomed to seeing a light hitting middle infielder or an outfielder that slaps the ball take the second most plate appearances. It is time to take back the number two spot in the order!

    While it could be tough enough to find a body for the first spot in the order on Opening Day, it could make it twice as hard to find someone for the number two spot. If Hicks is sent to Rochester for a little more experience, that would leave Darin Mastroianni or Jamey Carroll for the first couple spots in the order. These players might be able to find success there but having Mauer at number two would be much more beneficial.

    The Twins tried Carroll near the top of the order at the beginning of last season and it didn't work out so great. As a number two hitter, he batted .260/.330/.296 over 42 games. He was much more effective as bottom of the order hitter.

    Other options for the Twins for the number two spot are even scarier. Depending on who wins the starting middle infield jobs out of spring training, there could be a host of very light hitting players fighting for the number two spot. The other candidates are Pedro Florimon, Brian Dozier, and Eduardo Escobar. None of these three men have a career OBP of over .300 and it is hard to imagine them getting the opportunity to hit that early in the line-up.

    That leaves Mauer as the obvious choice to move up one spot in the batting order. As Twins fans know, Mauer isn't going to hit for a ton of power so it isn’t essential to have him in the middle of the order. He gets on base at an incredible rate and that skill should be utilized higher as the number two hitter.

    The number two hitter role isn't completely foreign to Mauer, as he has started 73 games in this position during the course of his career. Besides the number three spot in the order, he has accumulated more at-bats in the number two spot than all of the other spots combined. It's a small sample size when compared to the rest of his career but he has a higher slugging percentage when he bats in this spot.

    As far as the rest of the batting order, Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau would be able to slide up one spot to keep the middle of the line-up as a threat. Willingham is coming off the best season of his career and he could thrive as the number three hitter. Morneau will be entering next season after his first fully healthy offseason in multiple years.


    Overall, the Twins are going to need a lot of things to break right for them to find success next season. The rotation could be a mess and it doesn't look like there will be much help coming in 2013. Mauer moving to the number two spot in the line-up could be a small step to making the turn for the future. He seems to fit the mold of a number two hitter and this spot looks open on the current roster.

    It only seems natural to "Elect Mauer for the number two hitter!"


    This article was originally published in blog: CAMPAIGN: Elect Mauer for number two hitter started by Cody Christie
    Comments 54 Comments
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Not much use for a high BAw/ RISP when there won't be many RISPs in the first place (and RISP has an element of luck, anyway), it can't be emphasised enough how bad the Twins project to be at the top of the order, I'm talking Seattle Mariners bad. BTW, I'm not one of the fans you're talking about in Mauer pulling the ball more, just take a few more cuts on a slight upward plane to get some more lift out of the infield. That's why the Red Sox were salivating about Mauer using the Green Monster like a billiard cushion.
      Not just a high BA w/RISP, a high OBP with RISP (.500) and a pretty good slg% w/RISP as well (.514).
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Not just a high BA w/RISP, a high OBP with RISP (.500) and a pretty good slg% w/RISP as well (.514).
      All great, but his RISP opportunities will likely be cut by at least one-third this year.
    1. BrentMpls's Avatar
      BrentMpls -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      To be fair, there is only one manager in the entire league I believe would bat Mauer second given this lineup. (Maddon) So I'm not sure Gardy-bashing is appropriate.
      Disagree with you there, especially if you look at the past several years where making that change would have been a good move.

      Also, I wasn't Gardy-bashing, simply stating his (very firm) stance on the subject and unlikelihood of its change.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      All great, but his RISP opportunities will likely be cut by at least one-third this year.
      Perhaps...perhaps...but really, Span and Revere's OBPs weren't THAT good last year...were they?
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by BrentMpls View Post
      Disagree with you there, especially if you look at the past several years where making that change would have been a good move.
      Most managers are far more conventional or Gardy-like than I think people realize. I would suggest the vast majority of MLB managers would hit him third.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Perhaps...perhaps...but really, Span and Revere's OBPs weren't THAT good last year...were they?
      Span had an OBP of .339 in the Leadoff spot. That would have been 6th overall in AL team comparisons.
      Revere had an OBP of .340 in the 2-Hole. That would have been 4th overall in AL team comparisons.

      The Twins led the AL in Stolen Bases in the 1 & 2 spots combined with 72- finishing #1 in the 2-hole and #5 at Leadoff. Their percentages were high, too, around an 80% success rate.

      Span and Revere provided $32.6M worth of value to the Twins. Mastro turns 28 this year and has never played significantly in the majors until last year's 77 games played. Carroll turns 39 next month. Hicks has played only AA ball and historically has taken time to adjust at each level of progression. You think he will get a cup of coffee at Rochester and then come in right away and produce numbers like Span? Again, expecting a drop-off to Mariner-type numbers (.281 OBP leadoff/ .286 OBP in the 2-hole) might be too harsh a prediction as Carroll produced a .327 OBP in the #1 and #2 spots, combined. But there's no doubt there's going to be a significant drop-off, regardless, unless Hicks and Mastroianni miraculously defy the odds. Don't forget that Gardy will experiment with Dozier, Flori and Esco up at the top of the order, too.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Span had an OBP of .339 in the Leadoff spot. That would have been 6th overall in AL team comparisons.
      Revere had an OBP of .340 in the 2-Hole. That would have been 4th overall in AL team comparisons.

      The Twins led the AL in Stolen Bases in the 1 & 2 spots combined with 72- finishing #1 in the 2-hole and #5 at Leadoff. Their percentages were high, too, around an 80% success rate.

      Span and Revere provided $32.6M worth of value to the Twins. Mastro turns 28 next year and has never played significantly in the majors until last year's 77 games played. Carroll turns 39 next month. Hicks has played only AA ball and historically has taken time to adjust at each level of progression. You think he will get a cup of coffee at Rochester and then come in right away and produce numbers like Span? Again, expecting a drop-off to Mariner-type numbers (.281 OBP leadoff/ .286 OBP in the 2-hole) might be too harsh a prediction as Carroll produced a .327 OBP in the #1 and #2 spots, combined. But there's no doubt there's going to be a significant drop-off, regardless, unless Hicks and Mastroianni miraculously defy the odds. Don't forget that Gardy will experiment with Dozier, Flori and Esco up at the top of the order, too.
      I don't put much value in stolen bases...Bill James did a great study that showed the minimal value of the stolen base. Believe me when I tell you, I get the value of Span (was my favorite Twin behind Morny) and Revere but a lot of that was defense...and we aren't talking defense right now.

      Yeah, we're gonna take a hit in the one and two spot, Mauer would likely have a dropoff of RISP situation, but it's not gonna be a third.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I am still flabbergasted that anyone thinks Mauer should bat third. It just seems like such a preposterous thing. Oh well.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      From Fangraphs when talking about an offensive comparison for the MVP:

      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index...text-included/

      This metric is called RE24. It’s been on the site for years, and is available as part of our Win Probability section. We don’t use it a lot, because in general we prefer to talk about players from a context-neutral perspective, but for the purpose of this discussion, it might just be the perfect metric. RE24 is essentially the difference between the run expectancy when a hitter comes to the plate and when his at-bat ends. For example, September 16th, Cabrera came to the plate against Joe Smith with runners at first and second and two outs, a situation where the Tigers would be expected to score 0.33 runs on average. Cabrera hit a three run home run, so they actually scored three runs, and RE24 gives Cabrera credit for +2.67 runs, the gap between what they were expected to score and what they actually scored.

      Unlike with context-neutral statistics like wRC+, RE24 takes the number of outs and number of baserunners into account. It does not assume that all home runs are equal, nor does it treat a strikeout with a man on third base and one out as just another out. The rewards for performing with men on base are higher, and the blame for failing in those same situations is steeper as well. This is a metric that essentially quantifies the total offensive value of a player based on the situations that he actually faced.

      This is not a theoretical metric. If you hit a three run home run, you get more credit than if you hit a solo home run. If you are consistently getting hits with two outs to drive in runs, you get more credit than if those hits come with no outs and the bases empty. And, of course, it’s only an offensive metric, so there’s no defensive component, no position adjustments, and no replacement level. This is just straight up offense, adjusted for the context of the situations that they faced.

      Mauer finished 6th in the AL.

      Of course, that's SABR stuff, so if we look at normal stats...

      He had an OPS over 1.000 with RISP. He hit better than WIllingham did with RISP. And you are surprised some think that on this team, he should bat third?
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      I don't put much value in stolen bases...Bill James did a great study that showed the minimal value of the stolen base. Believe me when I tell you, I get the value of Span (was my favorite Twin behind Morny) and Revere but a lot of that was defense...and we aren't talking defense right now.

      Yeah, we're gonna take a hit in the one and two spot, Mauer would likely have a dropoff of RISP situation, but it's not gonna be a third.
      Mauer had only 192 PAs w/RISP in 2012. Span and Revere reached base 183 & 182 times, totaling 365 reaches. Combining their abilities to reach base at a high proficiency in the first place, hit for Doubles and Triples 61 times combined, efficiently steal a base, take the extra base on balls in play, and run out of the DP situations at both 1B & 2B, you don't see a chance for a significant drop off in Mauer RISP opportunities? The 192 PAs w/RISP works out to 1.31 RISP chances per game for Mauer's 147 games played in 2012, I can easily see that number dropping to 1.00 or lower in 2013. Simply put, there are going to be a lot more outs made by the 9,1 & 2 hitters in 2013..... (FYI, hitting in front of Span, Carroll was a great #9 hitter @ .357OBP! The Twins were 3rd in the league at OBP in the #9 slot @ .303. I can easily envision our #9 OBP dropping to the bottom close to Oakland As levels of OBP .258, or worse)...... combined with a lot less extra bases taken in those 3 slots just in front of Mauer.

      Example: Tampa Bay's primary #3 hitter, Ben Zobrist got only 100 RISP opportunities with the Rays- with their right around 10th or 11th best OBP numbers- in the 9,1 & 2 slots.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Mauer had only 192 PAs w/RISP in 2012. Span and Revere reached base 183 & 182 times, totaling 365 reaches. Combining their abilities to reach base at a high proficiency in the first place, hit for Doubles and Triples 61 times combined, efficiently steal a base, take the extra base on balls in play, and run out of the DP situations at both 1B & 2B, you don't see a chance for a significant drop off in Mauer RISP opportunities? The 192 PAs w/RISP works out to 1.31 RISP chances per game for Mauer's 147 games played in 2012, I can easily see that number dropping to 1.00 or lower in 2013. Simply put, there are going to be a lot more outs made by the 9,1 & 2 hitters in 2013..... (FYI, hitting in front of Span, Carroll was a great #9 hitter @ .357OBP! The Twins were 3rd in the league at OBP in the #9 slot @ .303. I can easily envision our #9 OBP dropping to the bottom close to Oakland As levels of OBP .258, or worse)...... combined with a lot less extra bases taken in those 3 slots just in front of Mauer.

      Example: Tampa Bay's primary #3 hitter, Ben Zobrist got only 100 RISP opportunities with the Rays- with their right around 10th or 11th best OBP numbers- in the 9,1 & 2 slots.
      You're switching from plate appearances to ABs. You mention Mauer's plate appearances with RISP to get the larger number, then Zobrists ABs to get the lower number.

      Zobrist had 142 plate appearances with RISP and only had 40% of his overall plate appearances were in the 3 spot. He also had 144 PAs combined between 1 and 2 spots...

      So, you're saying if Mauer gets roughly the same amount of plate appearances (641) as he did last year, he's only going to have, at MOST, 128 plate appearances with RISP...in the 3 spot. That would be 'at least one-third' of a dropoff, which is what you had said. Something to watch for that's for sure. He had more than that in 2007 when he only played 109 games and had 170 less plate appearances.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      Obviously a hell yes from me.

      The old adage is wrong. The best OBP and overall hitters should be batting 1,2, and 4, with a speedier type batting first and a power guy 4th. The guy batting 3rd should be a slugger because he often comes up with no one on base and two out in the first inning (Willingham). Batting fifth should be another slugger, but one who shouldn't live and die with it and simply be a HR or K guy.

      Disclaimer: lineup construction is somewhat overrated and does really only take shape in the first inning (though it can still be the case in 1-4 innings in tight games).

      That said:

      X
      Mauer
      Willingham
      Morneau (here's to hoping that he returns to form in 2013.
      Doumit
      Plouffe
      Parmelee
      X
      X

      would seem to make the most sense.
      I have to think Justin would be the guy to hit 3rd because you want someone in the 3 hole who can hit for average and power. Willingham is a photo-typical #4. The lineup I want to see goes like this.

      Hicks
      Mauer
      Morneau
      Willingham
      Doumit
      Parmalee
      Plouffe
      Dozier
      Florimon
      Especially if you're going to lead off with a rookie you want Mauer and Morneau immediately behind him so he see plenty of fastballs.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by fairweather View Post
      I have to think Justin would be the guy to hit 3rd because you want someone in the 3 hole who can hit for average and power. Willingham is a photo-typical #4. The lineup I want to see goes like this.

      Hicks
      Mauer
      Morneau
      Willingham
      Doumit
      Parmalee
      Plouffe
      Dozier
      Florimon
      Especially if you're going to lead off with a rookie you want Mauer and Morneau immediately behind him so he see plenty of fastballs.
      This is the actual lineup I'd endorse (w/ the exception of Carroll substituting for Dozier) when the next manager of the Twins takes over at the All-Star break...
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Here is the thing, a PA with no outs and nobody on base is twice as important as a PA with 2 outs and nobody on base, and 50% more important than a PA with 1 out and nobody on base. So, if you want to argue that your best OBP guy should be hitting anywhere other than leadoff, you need to prove that he will produce enough times with enough men on base to justify forfeiting all those no out-no men on, 1st inning PAs.
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