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.

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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