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Leading Off: The Number 2 hitter

Posted by Raphy on March 29, 2009

Last week Joe Girardi announced that he would be flip-flopping  Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter in the Yankee lineup. The actual value of the move may be  debatable, but it is interesting from a historical perspective.  Since 1954 there have been only a handful of players to have started as many games from their respective line-up slots as Damon and Jeter.

Only 7 players have started more games at leadoff  than Damon:

                   Games Link to Individual Games
 Rickey Henderson   2875 Ind. Games                
 Pete Rose          2300 Ind. Games                
 Lou Brock          1893 Ind. Games                
 Brett Butler       1845 Ind. Games                
 Kenny Lofton       1705 Ind. Games                
 Paul Molitor       1570 Ind. Games                
 Craig Biggio       1560 Ind. Games                
 Johnny Damon       1519 Ind. Games                

Only 4 players have started more games from the 2 hole than Jeter :

                   Games Link to Individual Games
 Ozzie Smith        1529 Ind. Games                
 Nellie Fox         1504 Ind. Games                
 Omar Vizquel       1470 Ind. Games                
 Jay Bell           1319 Ind. Games                
 Derek Jeter        1246 Ind. Games                

10 Responses to “Leading Off: The Number 2 hitter”

  1. JohnnyTwisto Says:

    The difference in hitting ability between those two lists is striking. While acknowledging that there's probably not too much difference in scoring between any "reasonable" lineups, the insistence of managers to fill the #2 spot with a "contact" hitter rather than one of their best hitters is annoying. Ironically, as Michael Kay would say, Jeter is probably the best of the #2 hitters and Damon the worst of the leadoff guys.

  2. apreziosi Says:

    You could argue the value of the leadoff hitter, since he is only guranteed to lead-off one inning. The bigger argument is lineup construction.

    Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is a big believer in splitting up his left and right-handed hitters (starting pitchers too, but that's another matter). I suppose he thinks it limits the options for the opposing manager. (There's a link to your one-third inning pitched list)

    I think it's more important to put guys in an order that makes sense rather than just what side they hit from, but whatever order you decide, they're only going to be successful 30% of the time (the good ones) and the chances of all of them being successful at the same time make lineups even less important.

    How many decent hitters were stuck in the 8-hole and never had an opportunity to see good pitches? There's another list for you - highest averages by #8 hitters.

  3. TheGoof Says:

    Lofton/Vizquel combo led off for the Indians from 1994 through 1996 and in 1998 and 1999. Five years for a very good two-some, including two pennants. I wonder how many combos have had more games at 1-2 than Lofton/Vizquel.

  4. apreziosi Says:

    Some perspective please:

    Lofton/Vizquel? Give me a break.

  5. ZimJim Says:

    apreziosi, i have to agree with the goof.

    lofton has always been an underrated hitter in my mind and was very consistent plus a threat on the basepaths.

    and visquel was known more for his glove but hit aroun 290 during his tenure with the indians and stole around 35 bases a year.

    id say they were a formidable one-two punch

  6. JohnnyTwisto Says:

    Those '90s Indians had some frightening offenses. Could they have been even better if Thome or someone was batting #2 instead of Vizquel? Seems quite possible. Of course, who knows if Thome would have taken it as a dis that he wasn't in a "run-producing" spot, and consequently didn't play as well. On the other hand, perhaps his taking to the spot and succeeding in it would have led to other teams doing the same thing.

    Apreziosi, I think it's a good idea to split your lefties, if possible. This is probably why the Yankees are flipping Damon and Jeter, because they anticipate lefty Brett Gardner batting 9th. Of course, if you have a LH who can handle LHP, it doesn't make a big difference. But most lefties do seem to have big platoon splits.

  7. buckley Says:

    Whitaker / Trammel hit 1 - 2 for a long time also, if I recall. Trammel eventually moved to #3 spot. Can anybody look that up?

  8. JohnnyTwisto Says:

    Buckley, you can look that up on both the individual player pages and on the team pages. Whitaker spent most of his career batting 1st or 2nd. Looks like he was mostly leadoff from '83 to '87. He batted 2nd in the late '70s and then again in the late '80s/early '90s. Trammell batted mostly 2nd, with solid chunks of time batting 3rd ('88, '90, '91), 4th ('87-'89), or 9th ('78, '79, '82). Anyway, from '83 to '86, the Tigers' most common lineup had Whitaker and Trammel batting 1-2.

  9. TheGoof Says:

    I said "very good," not great. But the Indians' lineup was so potent and successful, I don't think there was any need to alter it. Where they fell short was always pitching. Whitaker and Trammell? That's great. Two should-be Hall of Famers and the greatest all-around combination at short and second I've ever seen. They could beat you hitting, running or fielding. I'm not knocking the selection of Mazeroski and Smith to the Hall, but these guys were far more qualified.

  10. Raphy Says:

    They only combined as a 1-2 punch for a quarter of the season, but Henderson-Mattingly in 1985 (and some in subsequent years) has to rank up there.