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Jim H

Opinion Versus Fact

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One of the things we all do is state an opinion believing or suggesting it is fact. Often on this site and others, certain opinions often are treated as fact, even though they often aren't even all that well supported by the evidence. The latest opinion to be treated as fact is that it is much better to bat Mauer 2nd than third. It seems to be believed that batting him 2nd instead of Dozier/Carroll will create 1.5 or more wins for the Twins this coming year. Lets look at this for a bit.

Moving Mauer up to 2nd spot and Dozier/Carroll down will indeed take approximately 150 PA's from Dozier/Carroll. Mauer will get, maybe 30 of those if he plays in close to 162 games. Assuming Mauer has roughly 100 points more in OBP than Dozier/Carroll, that nets you about 3 additional baserunners for the entire season. The other 120 PA's will go to the rest of the batters who are moved up a spot. Most of these will have better OBP than Dozier/Carroll but the advantage won't be anywhere near that of Mauer. It is even likely that Dozier/Carroll will have a better OBP than at least one of guys batting in front of them. An educated guess would suggest that moving Dozier/Carroll down to the 8th spot might net additional baserunners between 3 and 7.

Now, you also get an additional boost because all of these hitters have a better slugging percentage than Dozier/Carroll. So perhaps you get 10 extra baserunners and an additional extra base or 2. I am not sure how you turn a possible extra 10 baserunners scattered throughout the season into 1.5 or more wins. I think that the extra possible 3 or more runs would be statistically insignificant when stretched over an entire season. More, I don't believe it would actually result in any additional runs at all.

Batting Mauer 3rd, even with a no. 2 hitter who only gets on base 30% of the time, would mean that Mauer will have roughly 50 extra baserunners on base in front of him in the 1st inning alone(based on 30% times 162 games). Since Mauer is the team's best hitter and best hitter with RISP, it is quite likely that giving Mauer more chances to hit with RISP will make up for the possible loss of baserunners by putting Dozier/Carroll in the 2nd spot.

What I am suggesting here, does require that whoever the no. 2 hitter is, he has to manage a decent on base percentage. There is no way to know if Dozier can manage that, at this point. That is likely why Mauer is currently hitting 2nd. What I am really saying is, it is not a slam dunk that the team is "better" by having Mauer hit 2nd. That is an opinion. You can make some strong arguments to support that opinion. Just as I can make at least one argument to support batting him 3rd.
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  1. Badsmerf's Avatar
    There is a problem with this argument. The first is the assumption that Mauer will have 50 extra baserunners on in front of him, the next that they would be RISP, and the next is that Mauer would drive them in. Plus, if you have a #2 hitting getting on-base at one of the lowest levels of any player in the entire MLB, you are giving essentially giving the 2nd most AB's in a season to one of the worst hitters in the MLB on purpose. This is completely illogical. Many would be fine with Mauer hitting 3rd if there was a legit option on the roster. OBP doesn't make this argument. The benefit of Mauer batting second is the immediate pressure he puts on pitchers. Almost 60% of the time a runner will be on base with 1 out when Willingham hits in the 1st inning now (assuming Mauer 40% Hicks 33% and the odds that neither reach base is about 40%). So, now you have your best chance to get an XBH in the next 2 AB's and a runner that can score from first. With an incompetent 2 hitter and since Mauer doesn't hit many XBH, the odds of scoring are less. Anyway, just a little statistics to consider.
  2. birdwatcher's Avatar
    Well said, badsmerf.

    Just two games ago, Mauer got a two-out hit and Willingham hit a homerun. I like our chances much better if we can have two guys with nice OBP's in front of the two sluggers.
  3. jorgenswest's Avatar
    I appreciate data, but realize that interpretation is opinion.

    One observation of the data thus far has been that the Twins have worked the pitch counts of opposing pitchers.

    They had 4 players last year that saw an above average pitches/plate appearance.

    Mauer - 4.31
    Willingham - 4.20
    Carroll - 4.07
    Span - 3.89

    Dozier saw 3.68 pitches per plate appearance.

    This year the team average is 4.25 in a few games. Last year was 3.88.

    I wonder if grouping at the top of the lineup several players who can work the count and see a lot of pitches will cause earlier exits of the opposing starting pitcher. Grouping them certainly will lead to higher pitch count innings.

    I am not sure what the data means to winning baseball games, but I am interested in following it this year.
  4. Jim H's Avatar
    Part of the argument here is based on the traditional reasons for having your best hitter bat 3rd. A manager has little or no control really, how many times his best hitter or hitters come to the plate with runners on base. The 1st inning is really the only exception to that. If you have 2 hitters who get on base at 30% or better, there will be somewhere around 100 runners on base during the course of the season in the first inning for your 3rd place batter. Largely, OBP of each hitter times 162 games, minus home runs, double plays, caught stealings, and if the lead off hitter scores on a hit by the 2nd place hitter. Putting Mauer in the 3rd spot will increase the number of times he will have runners on in front of him.

    Unless there has been a home run, if the clean up batter bats in the first, he has runners on base for him. There tend to be a lot of variables here, but if you have somebody with a good OBP to bat 2nd, I believe it makes sense to bat Mauer 3rd. You will increase his RBI opportunities and probably Willingham's as well.

    I think largely if the no. 2 hitter has an OBP in the vicinity of the clean up hitter(currently Willingham) then you will probably be better off with Mauer batting 3rd. If Dozier or Carroll can't get on base that often, then it makes more sense to move Mauer to the 2nd spot. Especially because moving the hitters up gets Morneau into the 4th spot. But, largely what I am saying is that I don't think it is any slam dunk that it is better for the team to have Mauer batting 2nd.
    Updated 04-06-2013 at 02:20 PM by Jim H
  5. Shane Wahl's Avatar
    Someone can check on this, but when the Twins were rollin' on dubs last year for awhile (and it was brief, but not terribly brief) was when they FINALLY did have two legitimate OBP people in front of Mauer. Span and Revere at the time were somewhere around .350 OBP and during that stretch they might have been .370 or so. That worked. That's basically the one time in the Mauer era where such a thing has occurred.
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