Friday, June 20, 2014

Worst #2 Hitters

Upton's been killing the Braves this year with his poor performance and massive salary (SportingNews)
Studies have shown that baseball managers should bat their best hitters second in the lineup to optimize run production. Some teams, however, are using horrible hitters in that slot and thus severely limiting their run-scoring capabilites. Here's a look at some of the worst-offenders so far this season:

B.J. Upton
The sample size proving B.J. Upton is terrible grows larger by the day. Since the start of last season, a span of nearly 200 games, he's a .194/.272/.309 hitter with 47 RBI and 238 strikeouts. Worth -1.2 bWAR during that time, he owns the lowest batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, and second-lowest wOBA and wRC+ of all players with at least 230 plate appearances. The worst everyday hitter over the past season and a half (except maybe Miami's Adeiny Hechavarria) shouldn't be playing at all, much less batting second in a Braves lineup that has plenty of better alternatives in Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Evan Gattis, and B.J.'s brother Justin Upton (pretty much everyone except Dan Uggla, their only regular with a lower OPS). But as long as Atlanta is paying Upton superstar money, he will continue to be a regular presence in Fredi Gonalez's lineup.

Derek Jeter
Alex Rodriguez was on to something when he referred to Jeter as a number two hitter back in 2001. Jeets has been batting out of the two-hole for nearly 20 years now, and Joe Girardi's not going to move him down even though Number Two has no business batting that high in New York's star-studded lineup. Jeter can still hit for a little average (.276 entering play today), but the soon-to-be-40 year-old's power has vanished altogether. Jeter's slugging .328 this year and .313 since the start of last year. That lack of pop, combined with his non-existent speed and average on-base ability, makes him a poor table-setter for Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and co. Jacoby Ellbury or Brett Gardner, both of whom have great speed and get on base at a good clip, are superior options. While I'm at it, Jeter shouldn't be playing shortstop anymore either, where his statue-esque defense is costing New York runs on a daily basis. If the Yankees wind up missing the postseason by a handful of games, their captain's unwillingness to change positions and take a lineup demotion for the good of the team will be a big reason why.

Jean Segura
The Brewers lead the NL Central by four and a half games because their lineup is a finely tuned machine save two places: first base, where they're relying on 37 year-old Lyle Overbay, and shortstop. That's where Segura comes in. His strong start to 2013 is looking more and more like a fluke, because over the past calendar year he's batted just .253/.284/.329 with four home runs, 38 RBI and four times as many strikeouts as walks. Among qualified hitters this year he ranks fifth from the bottom in wOBA and third-to-last in wRC+. An All-Star in 2013, Segura isn't playing like one this year. His defense is good enough to merit playing time, but he should be hitting eighth, not first or second (where he's batted 43 times this year).

Omar Infante
Of course Ned Yost is batting Infante second when he has plenty of guys--Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez, Billy Butler, even Alcides Escobar--better-suited for it. The 32 year-old second baseman is hitting a measly .250/.296/.363 with limited power, an aversion to walks and no speed to speak of (one steal in two attempts). Infante was great with the Tigers last year, but so far this year his bat's been about 20 percent worse than average on a league and park-adjusted basis. The Royals are in first place, but I have to think their lead would be larger than half a game if Infante was hitting further down in the lineup.

Everth Cabrera
Cabrera's batted first or second in all but four of San Diego's games this year, and you wonder why their offense stinks? After getting busted for Biogenesis connections last year, when he made his first All-Star team, Cabrera's come crashing back to earth this year. He's hitting .226/.262/.306 this year with more than five strikeouts for every walk, not to mention the lowest wOBA among qualified players. He does offer a bit of speed with 13 stolen bases to date, but not enough (ditto defense) to compensate for his incompetence at the plate.

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