First Pitch: Who Should Bat Second?

Russell Martin is one of three hitters who have hit second in the first four games. Photo credit: David Hague

Russell Martin is one of three hitters who have hit second in the first four games. Photo credit: David Hague

At the end of Spring Training, the Pittsburgh Pirates started using Garrett Jones as a number two hitter. I wrote about the topic during the final week, and noted that Clint Hurdle said the team was also looking at Neil Walker, Russell Martin, and Travis Snider as other options. He also said that they would be looking for some consistency throughout the year.

So far the number two hitter hasn’t been consistent. Jones started there the first two games. Martin hit there the third game. Walker started there tonight.

Walker is the favorite among Pirates fans to be the number two hitter. He’s got a decent OBP and hits for average, with a career .279/.339 line. Those aren’t spectacular numbers, but the Pirates have had some pretty miserable OBP numbers in recent years, and not a lot of better individual options.

Not many people are open to the idea of Martin being a number two hitter, pretty much due to his historical numbers. His OBP has dropped in each of the last four years, going from .385 in 2008 to .311 last year. His OBP the last two years has been .317, and that’s not what you want to see out of a guy who is supposed to be setting up the heart of the lineup.

Garrett Jones isn’t your typical number two hitter. He’s a power guy and doesn’t have a good OBP, making him a better option a few spots down in the lineup. However, he hit second for 104 plate appearances in 2011, and had a .286/.356/.538 line.

Looking at the overall numbers, Walker would be the clear choice for a number two hitter. But let’s look at the splits.

vs Left-Handed Pitching

Neil Walker – .264/.319/.356

Russell Martin – .270/.383/.444 (.226/.356/.524 in 2012)

Garrett Jones – .198/.237/.353

vs Right-Handed Pitching

Neil Walker – .286/.347/.449

Russell Martin – .255/.341/.382 (.205/.290/.352 in 2012)

Garrett Jones – .278/.347/.501

Looking at those splits, Walker and Jones clearly do well against right-handed pitching, but they struggle against left-handers. Walker doesn’t struggle as much, which should be expected from a switch hitter. Martin’s career stats are better than recent years, so I also included the 2012 splits. He was bad against right-handers last year, but crushed left-handers. Now let’s look at how Clint Hurdle has set up the lineups the first four games.

Game 1: Garrett Jones bats 2nd vs RHP

Game 2: Garrett Jones bats 2nd vs RHP

Game 3: Russell Martin bats 2nd vs LHP

Game 4: Neil Walker bats 2nd vs RHP

Looking at the splits above, I’d say it’s the right call to bat Martin second against a left-hander. If you look at the overall numbers, you wouldn’t see it, but when you break it down, Martin is clearly a better option than Walker or Jones.

As for right-handed pitchers, Hurdle has used Jones twice and Walker once. They’re both good against right-handers, although I think Walker might be suited best for the number two spot, if only because Jones would be better suited for the number five spot due to having more power.

I certainly don’t agree with everything Clint Hurdle does. In fact, I disagree with more than I agree with. In this case, I can’t fault any of the decisions. Jones or Walker would be good options against right-handers, and my preference would be Walker, with Jones batting in the middle of the order. Looking at the overall OBP, Russell Martin would be a horrible number two hitter. Looking at the splits, he’d be a strong number two hitter, as long as he’s only doing that against left-handed starters.

If it were my call, the lineup would have Walker batting second against right-handers, and Martin batting second against left-handers.

Links and Notes

**The 2013 Prospect Guide and the 2013 Annual are both available on the products page of the site. If you order them together, you’ll save $5. Get them both to use throughout the 2013 season.

**Prospect Watch: Alex Presley Starts the Year With a Hot Bat.

**Nick Kingham Gets Too Comfortable With His Fastball In Marauders Loss.

**Minor League Schedule: 4/6/13.

**Can James McDonald Be More Like the First Half Pitcher From 2012?

**Pirates Notebook: Notes from the First Series.

**Pirates Notebook: Jonathan Sanchez Making Pirates Debut.

**Pirates’ Bats Stay Cold in L.A. as Bucs Lose 3-0.

**Draft Prospect Watch: Stanek Throws Eight Shutout Innings.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • emjayinTN

    I think I should bat second, because I have gotten almost as many hits for the Pirates from my easy chair in Tennessee. In the last 3 years Walker has batted about 1500 times with a .282 batting average He has averaged 31 doubles, 2 triples, 13 HR’s, and 73 RBI’s over that 3 year period. Can anyone remember if the Pirates have ever had a second baseman with numbers that good? How about a No. 2 hitter? Hurdle had a brain fart and screwed with a set lineup, and I am sure that has not had any negative impact on the situation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

    I think Walker should bat leadoff and move Marte down after Alvarez. batting 2nd??? martin maybe?
    .
    does it matter that much whom the 2nd guy is if the leadoff guy isnt on regularly? (yeah, i know it matters. just being a $#@!)

  • weltytowngang

    Line up:
    1. Tabata (spelling) – when he’s on, he was best Pirates have had
    2. McC- Only one who can move base tuner
    3. Walker – has more success with McC in front of him and power behind
    4. Jones/Sanchez – is good at # 4
    5. Alvarez – is not comfortable at clean up
    6. Marte – take the pressure & give him a chance
    7. Barmes – some success; less chance of failure & may succeed
    8. Martin – who cows?

  • https://profiles.google.com/113824087346904673399 Dom DiDominic

    Welp,
    I like Jones batting 2nd (v.rhp). There is no way Jones should hit v a lhp in a high leverage situation. Therefore, it would be tough on managers to bring in a loogy to face Jones with McCutchen behind him.
    Hurdle did have options last night at the end when he could have gone to Tabata or Sanchez to PH.

    On that note, Inge is looking like he will replace Harrison. Not sure I have a problem with that. Question would be, would you have rather seen Inge up last night then Harrison? I would have rather just let Barmes bat in the 8th than Harrison.

  • leadoff

    I have no clue where anyone in this lineup should bat, stats are totally useless until someone can hit a pitch right down the middle, you can move our little chess pieces around all you want, but if none of them can produce it is a waste of time.
    This team could not hit in ST and they can’t hit now, but I believe they will hit somewhere around the end of April, much like they did last year. I believe that management does a very poor job of preparing these players for the season, when they can’t hit a ST fastball the first week in March, they have a long way to go and they are not going to get there playing 3-5 innings a game. Too many players had a guaranteed jobs when they got to ST, they should have taken their inability to hit in St more seriously than they were.

  • Dropkickmurphys

    No one. Just take the automatic out and avoid any chance of a double play. Of course, I’m assuming the lead off hitter got on base.

  • ianmonk

    Walker has been really unlucky so far. I have always liked him batting in the 2 spot and feel its just a matter of time before he returns to his regular spot in the order. I do think if we were on and hitting the ball, Walker would be excellent in the 6 spot and could drive in 100 if given the opportunity. Also, Alex Presley had to start off hot, we have to look like we don’t know what we are doing.

  • leadoff

    This team seems to follow the leader, you have to wonder if one of them gets hot if that would ignite the rest of them, last year McCutchen got hot and the rest of the team followed him, he cooled down and the rest of the team cooled down.
    Last night Alvarez struck out on an outside pitch he could not hit with a bed slat, then Jones starts swinging at pitches he could never hit, then Walker, a guy that was making good contact most of the game strikes out to end the game on a pitch he could never hit, just looked like he gave up.

  • Curtis

    You can’t look at one spot in a vacuum. Against RHP, I think Walker should be leading off based on his OBP and experience. That lets Marte take the #2 spot. Top it off with Cutch-Jones-Alvarez-Snider and I think you score some runs.

    LHP is much more challenging for this team. I’m not a fan of Russell as #2 as I think his speed makes him ripe for too many double plays. But I don’t have a better option unless they want to try Tabata and sit Jones.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrishale525 Chris Hale

    I think Tabata looks much better this season and much more prepared. I think if Hurdle would give Tabata the AB’s needed to get going he would be great in the leadoff spot or the 2nd spot. I also think Marte will get going soon. They have faced good pitching and they will get settled but I would go with this line up vs RHP
    1. Tabata RF
    2. Marte LF
    3. Cutch CF
    4. Walker 2b
    5. Jones 1B
    6. Alvarez 3B
    7. Martin C
    8. Barmes SS
    vs LHP
    1. Tabata Rf
    2. Marte LF
    3. McCutchen CF
    4. Sanchez 1B
    5. Walker 2B
    6. Alvarez 3B
    7. Martin C
    8. Barmes SS