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anthony rizzo cubsYesterday, Anthony Rizzo was moved back into the third spot in the Chicago Cubs’ lineup after five games in the two-hole. The maneuvering was part of a shakeup involving Starlin Castro batting leadoff, as manager Dale Sveum tried to get his two young, core offensive players out of a funk as the season winds down.

Rizzo, who never groused about being moved, told Carrie Muskat that he was happy to be back in the three spot.

“I was very uncomfortable there in the two-hole but it was what it was and hopefully, I never go back,” Rizzo said, per Muskat.

When I saw Rizzo’s remark last night on Twitter, I was surprised, given that Rizzo hit 292/.393/.542 with a couple homers during his two-hole sojourn. Why would he be uncomfortable? What was there not to like about performing well near the top of the order?

Rizzo explained to Muskat, in part: “It’s more an ego thing. I’ve never hit second in my life. If you’re the second hitter, you’re someone who gets guys over and bunts and slaps and what not. I think our lineup doesn’t call for me hitting second. You see the Cardinals and [Carlos] Beltran hitting second but that’s because he has no where else to hit.”

Oh, mercy, no. No, no, no.

Up front, let me emphasize that I have no problem with Rizzo preferring to hit third, and feeling more comfortable there. I get that there’s a mindset to hitting, and, above all else, you want a guy to feel comfortable. The fact that Rizzo hit well in the two-hole could just be a small sample size fluke, rather than him feeling good about his approach those days. And it’s worth pointing out that, however he felt, Rizzo was willing to move without a huff when he was asked.

The part I’d like to focus on is the stated rationale for preferring not to bat second. Namely, that “gets guys over and bunts and slaps” part. It looks familiar, doesn’t it? You heard it when you grew up and played the game, yes? Historically, that’s how number two hitters have been viewed. The term “productive out” was thrown around liberally when talking about a two-hole hitter. I am not surprised that Rizzo thinks that way, and I don’t blame him for having those thoughts. The second-hitter-as-light-hitting-slap-guy-to-move-the-leadoff-guy-over narrative has been pervasive for decades.

Let me be as clear as I possibly can: that kind of thinking is both arcane and flat-out bad baseball.

I won’t beat you about the eyes with an extensive discussion on why trading outs for moving a runner up a base is a terrible decision, as there is already extensive literature out there to inform you (including a great series at Lookout Landing as recently as this month). Instead, I’ll say only that a successful sacrifice bunt reduces the expected number of runs a team will score in an inning. Worse, not all sacrifices are successful! Intentionally giving up outs to move runners along is terrible, backwards-thinking baseball*, and it should never be built into what a second-hole hitter – or any other hitter – is supposed to be.

*To be sure, there are *rare* occasions where a “productive out” is a legitimate thing (bottom of the 9th, tie game, runner on second, for example), but they are as likely to come up for any spot in the order as the two-hole. In terms of this conversation (about the two-hole, specifically), the concept of giving yourself up – trading a precious, precious out for a single advanced base – is wholly irrelevant.

So, if the second-hole hitter isn’t supposed to be the slappy, bunty, scrappy player he was in the halcyon days of yore, what is he supposed to be?

Simple. He’s supposed to be the best hitter in your lineup.

I know this, too, goes against what you “know” about the game, but extensive research and analysis – led most notably by sabermetrician Tom Tango, who is now a consultant for none other than the Chicago Cubs – suggests the best spot in the lineup for your best overall hitter is the second spot. Placing him there accomplishes a number of things, including stacking your best hitters back-to-back-to-back (instead of breaking them up with some slappy guy in the two-hole – that’s granting the pitcher a break), and giving that best hitter more plate appearances than he’d get if he were batting third for fourth. Isn’t it axiomatic that you want your best hitters getting the most plate appearances?

The exercise of identifying your “best” hitter is not an easy one, particularly as it relates to batting order (who is the “better” hitter for two-hole purposes: a guy with a .270/.310/.600 line, or a guy with a .300/.370/.400 line? Well, it’s probably the second guy, even if the first guy’s wOBA is probably higher). There’s a little bit of “art” involved, and I’m not going to say that Anthony Rizzo is clearly the best guy for the two hole on this Cubs team.

I merely want to use this opportunity to disabuse Rizzo or anyone else of the notion that batting second is anything other than a compliment. Batting second puts a player in a very important run-producing role. Remember: producing runs isn’t just about knocking them in; producing runs is also about getting on base and being a part of the scoring at both ends.

I tend to think Dale Sveum understood this point when he placed Rizzo in the two-hole to begin with, and explained that the young lefty should just do what he does. Sveum didn’t ask Rizzo to start bunting or slapping at the ball to move runners over. Instead, Sveum understood that if Rizzo was just Rizzo, batting second could be a very good thing for both him and the Cubs. It was a short-lived experiment, and it might not be repeated this or next year, depending on the rest of the lineup.

It was interesting while it lasted, though, even if for no other reason than it generated this discussion.

  • MXB

    Ryne Sandberg’s 1984 MVP season would like to have a word with Rizzo regarding batting second

    • http://ehanauer.com clark addison

      Sandberg hit second through most of his career, including his 40 homer season.

    • Brian Myers

      Ryno was a great example of a quality #2 hitter. Rizzo this season is batting .231 with 20 HR’s, and that’s a number 6 or 7 hitter in a strong lineup. Rizzo has much more talent than that, but statistically he needs to improve as his WAR makes him only the 7th best 1B in the NL.

      He’s 11th in runs, 12th in RBI’s and tied for 7th (with 2 others) in HR’s at 1B…. but he has the 4th most AB’s. Frankly, this year, a consistent slappy guy would have been more valuable. (Not long term, but this year…)

  • On The Farm

    Kris Bryant batted second for his college team, he was easily the best player on that team. Maybe when Bryant gets to the show he will be cool with batting second.

    • mdavis

      i thought he batted leadoff, but thats because they didnt want pitchers going around him.

      • On The Farm

        Touche, I was wrong.

    • Mr. B. Patient

      Bryant was moved to first or second in the line-up to minimize the number of walks he was getting. His college coach said that was the only way other teams would let him swing the bat.

  • JB88

    I suspect that Almora will eventually be the Cubs’ No. 2 hitter. But the Cubs do have a lot of power in their up-and-coming prospects, which is certainly a very nice problem to have.

    • Blublud

      I suspect Almora will more then likely be the Cubs 7 or 8 hitter. If your 2 hole hitter is your best hitter, I can think of at least 2 guys on the current roster and at least 4 or 5 in the minors who will be better.

      • JeffR

        I could easily see Almora being our best our best hitter in terms of batting average and plate discipline. Obviously hard to say though when he hasn’t played above A ball yet.

        • On The Farm

          I would like to see a higher walk rate at A than 6%, but then again he might not really had been challenged and just hit everything he could. We will see once the level of pitching goes up a notch in the AFL and then A+ to see what kind of hitter we have.

          • fortyonenorth

            I’ve seen Almora a couple of times and his current walk rate doesn’t worry me. Right now he’s getting pitches to hit and he’s hitting them. Haven’t checked his K rate, but I’m guessing it’s pretty low.

            • On The Farm

              Indeed it is at 11%, that’s why I think between the AFL and Daytona the real Almora will appear. We will find out if he is the same guy he has been in KC or if he does have the ability to draw more walks.

              • Koyie Hill Sucks

                I just hope Almora stays healthy enough to reach the majors…

        • Blublud

          Uh. No. You don’t really want a guy hitting .260-.270 with a 6% walk rate, average speed and no power hitting 2nd.

          • On The Farm

            I say give him A and AA before we label him as a 6% rate guy. If anything he didn’t really have to be selective in Kane County. His first month he was hitting over .400 because he could make good contact with just about everything they were throwing at him. That means for a whole month he never had to lay off any pitches, that’s certianly going to hurt the walk rate.

            • hansman1982

              If anything, his profile suggests he might just be a low walk, high average guy. He might just be the type that knows the strike zone really well but has a damn good contact ability.

              • C. Steadman

                if you’re pointing out the poor 6%BB then point out the great 11%SO…like hans said..he has shown he’s good at making consistent contact

              • On The Farm

                Maybe, I tried to do a quick look at his stats and he had a 3% walk rate over 130+ PA from May and June and got his BB% to 6% through July and August once he stopped hitting everything. I think the Almora we saw from July-August is the real Almora and I think his BB% will be average.

                • C. Steadman

                  i was refering to blublud, not you, but yeah i think almora will be better than 6%BB guy…he’s just seeing the ball really well at Low A and if you see your pitch swing..and he’s making contact hence the low 11%K

                  • On The Farm

                    My reply was to hansman re:Almora’s profile.

                    • C. Steadman

                      oh gotcha

          • jh03

            Report on Almora is that he will be a significantly better hitter than that.

            Obviously things happen and prospects don’t reach their ceiling, but he’s not expected to be a “no-power” guy at all.

          • Spriggs

            Most projections I saw over the last couple years have him at 15 to 20 HR potential.

  • terencemann

    Thank you for writing this.

  • Spencer

    For it being such a clear cut decision and compliment to have your best hitter hit second, we certainly don’t see it much around baseball…

    • hansman1982

      There is still a lot of the “YOU’RE LEADOFF GUY NEEDS TO BE FAST!!!!!!!!!!!” mentatlity in baseball. I have a feeling lineup optimization will take a few more years.

      • Blublud

        I’m sorry. But you leadoff guy being fast is a definite advantage. If a another guy and I have the same exact hitting skills and I’m faster then him, my statd are more likely to be better then his because I will be able to run out more IF grounder and also cause guys to rush and creating more errors. I can also steal bases once I’m on, moving myself Into scoring position. I also have a better chance of scoring from 1st on a double then the other guy.

        So while a leadoff guy doesn’t have to be fast, a leadoff guy with the hitting skills for the spot is definitely better then a guy not having it.

        • jh03

          If you had the option of two guys with similar OBP’s and contact skills, yeah, you’d pick the faster one. That’s a luxury though.

          What Hansman is saying is that speed in the leadoff spot is over-rated. You’d be better off with a high OBP guy who’s not fast than a guy who’s just fast, like conventional wisdom would tell you.

          • terencemann

            The problem with “Lead-off hitter needs to be fast!!!” mentality is that it lead to things in the past like players like Jordan Schafer, Drew Stubbs, or Ben Revere batting lead-off with sub-300 OBPs and that’s basically giving the other team free outs.

        • hansman1982

          Hell, it’d be advantageous for all of your hitters to be fast. However, Tony Campana, with all of his speed, will never be as good of a leadoff option as Yadier Molina.

          • On The Farm

            Nah, if Tony Campana had Molina’s hitting skills, I would still want Molina leading off.

            • hansman1982

              If Tony and Molina had a baby, I could still outrun it.

              • Cubbie Blues

                Well, yeah, it would be a baby.

              • Stinky Pete

                I’m sure you could catch it if it had a burger tied to it.

                • hansman1982

                  Just so long as I don’t remember that I have a burger stashed in my back pocket for rainy days…

        • DocPeterWimsey

          The problem with the “all else being equal” is that it’s a total strawman: we never see teams batting the slow 0.380 OBP guy over the fast 0.380 OBP guy; we see them batting the fast 0.320 OBP guy over the slow 0.380 OBP guy. At that point, speed allowing the former guy to beat out grounders obviously is moot: the slow guy is getting on base 40-45 more times each year. (And he’s also letting the next guy bat 40-45 more times each year, and letting the guy after that bat maybe 15-18 more times each year: and that can be a huge increase in net HR, doubles, walks, etc.)

      • ssckelley

        Speed does help, but the most important part of batting lead off is getting on base. But if you have a speed guy with a high on base percentage he can disrupt the pitcher.

        • Hansman1982

          No. The batter at the plate benefits to the same level regardless of who is on first base.

          • ssckelley

            So a pitcher hurrying the pitches or losing control because of speed at first does not help the batter? I have seen pitchers lose command because of having to pitch from the stretch.

            • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

              Doesn’t he pitch from the stretch no matter if the leadoff guy is Ellsbury or Choo?

              • ssckelley

                I must be the only one who has seen a pitcher rush his pitches because of having someone with good speed at first.

                • hansman1982

                  Regardless, the production of the player at the plate doesn’t change.

                  • ssckelley

                    I disagree, Victorino is a better hitter when Elsbury gets on base. Go look at his statistics in the first inning and with a runner on 1st or 2nd base.

                    • cub2014

                      #2 hitter will have more fastballs
                      to hit when a base stealing threat
                      is on base. He might also get a pitch
                      out early in the count putting the
                      batter ahead. We know what happens
                      to batting averages when a hitter is
                      ahead in the count.

                    • hansman1982

                      I meant that as the production of the batter doesn’t change if you have Ellsbury/Campana/Ricky Henderson on base vs. any Molina/either Fielder/Stephen Hawking on base.

                • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

                  Well, regardless of if it helps…won’t it help the #7 hitter as much as the #3 hitter?
                  And I’m guessing the #7 hitter actually NEEDS the help more, so would be another reason to have the speed guy in the 5/6/7 spots

                  • Drew7

                    This.

                    I’ve never understood why people would insist on having a speed-guy risking a SB in front of high-slugging guys. Half of Rizzo’s hits have gone for extra bases – why risk having a guy get thrown out trying to get to 2nd?

                    I would think a successful SB would be much more valuable in front of guys with less power, since all you’d need is a single to get that runner home.

                    • ssckelley

                      If the runner is unable to advance to 2nd after the #2 hitter then I agree with you, no reason to take the chance running into an out when Rizzo can knock the player home from 1st base. But ideally you would like the lead off hitter to already be at 2nd, even better if at 3rd because then you increase the chance of Rizzo driving him in.

                  • ssckelley

                    Anytime you have a great base runner on 1st base it helps the hitter. The few times Campana got on base he made a huge difference to the flow of the game. It has just been so long since the Cubs had a good leadoff hitter that some people around here forgot how effective they can be.

                    To think I was originally agreeing with Hansmann original comment. Speed does no good in the leadoff spot if they are unable to get on base.

                    • cub2014

                      And Campana is getting on base for
                      Arizona (small sample size). If he can
                      get on base (getting walks & striking
                      out less) he puts pressure on pitcher
                      and the defense and helps the offense

                    • ssckelley

                      Campana was fun to watch when he was hitting the ball on the ground and getting on base. All to often with the Cubs he was hitting lazy fly balls or striking out.

              • C. Steadman

                he might be talking about a full leg kick or a “short load”(both out of the stretch)…full leg kick from stretch is when pitchers aren’t worried about the runner while a short quick load is so they can be quicker to the plate…(on average short quick load=less control)

    • bbmoney

      There are an awful lot of old school thinkers managing MLB teams. So it’s not really surprising.

      I don’t remember the specifics but the Red’s were particularly egrigious last year with their choices for #1 and #2 hitters in front of Votto. Which also isn’t surprising, given their manager.

    • TWC

      Conventional “wisdom” takes a long time to change.

      • On The Farm

        Until one team does really successful with it the “conventionals” won’t change their thinking.

        • TWC

          Well, La Russa was successful moving the pitcher up to the 8th spot in the lineup and that advantage hasn’t quite taken off either.

          The traditionalists of baseball make golfers look positively anarchic.

          • mjhurdle

            La Russa was successful because he had good hitting pitchers.
            batting the pitcher 8th only has between a 0.7 and 1.5 runs per year difference, depending on how much faith you place in The Book.
            Not enough difference to swing a traditional thought process imo.

            • TWC

              “La Russa was successful because he had good hitting pitchers. ”

              No. LaRussa was successful due to voodoo magic, and *only* voodoo magic. Let’s make that clear.

              But as for the batting position of the pitcher, I know the difference is small. But a run is a run, and I have yet to see good reason not to place the pitcher in the 8th spot.

              • mjhurdle

                good point on the voodoo magic. cant believe i didn’t take that into account

            • DocPeter Wimsey

              Actually, it’s a few more runs a year than that: with most pitchers and most NL #8 hitters, It is in the 6-8 runs a year range. However, that is the problem: you are looking at an expectation of probably one extra every 20-24 games. People expect lineup shifts to produce an extra run per game NOW. Of course, if you ask people if you can generate 162 more runs from the same 8 guys by juggling the order, most would realize that is ridiculous. However, classic cognitive dissonance prevents them from realizing that is a run per game.

              That written, the Cubs FO needs to chat with Rizzo about tactics. His job at any position in the order should be to drive the ball. Indeed, this is the laughably Grimmsian part of his views: the “slap the ball” stems from “hit to the right side,” which often involves “slapping” for RHB. For LHB, that is pulling the ball: and “slap” swings are not good for that. This is a case where the most basic tactics clearly are being communicated instaed of overall strategy.

              • mjhurdle

                6-8 runs a year?
                how did you hit that number?
                obvious you are better with the magical numbers than I, but everything that i have seen has it at or below the 1.5 runs/year that The Book calculated an ‘optimized lineup’ as being worth.

                or maybe i am just reading all the wrong stuff.

    • MichiganGoat

      Sadly I think this is because of ego. The best players believe that batting 3/4 increases thier triple crown stats and they have more chances to get a multiple RBI attempts and the majority of fans believe the same so it is what is expected. Not sure why Sveum (or maybe Thed) caved in here, it just made so much sense the bat Castro 1 Rizzo 2 but sometimes ego overtakes logic.

      • frank

        He said as much–that it was an ego thing. And then he gave his unfortunate rationale.

  • Kevin

    Ryne Sandberg HOF batted 2nd. Rizzo thinks he’s better than he actually is.

    • bbmoney

      What?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I don’t think it has anything to do with Rizzo actually thinking he’s “too good” to bat second. I just think he – and so many folks around baseball – has a misconception about what a number two hitter is supposed to be. This is an issue I’d like to see the Cubs adapt early on, and rethink what number two is supposed to be. Other teams are starting to catch on.

      • MichiganGoat

        The fact that Tango is on the Cubs payroll tells me they know that the 2 hole is the best spot but player and manager ego sometimes get in the way of reality.

      • Kevin

        Rizzo’s own words “It’s more an ego thing. I’ve never hit second in my life. If you’re the second hitter, you’re someone who gets guys over and bunts and slaps and what not.”

        Anthony, this is a team sport and sometimes you do what’s right for the team.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          But he did move when asked, and he performed well there. I think he was just being honest with a reporter, and I definitely don’t want to see fans punishing him for it.

          • TWC

            For some fans, like Kevin, shitting all over Rizzo is easier than thinking critically.

          • Senor Cub

            I remember the Cubs going through this with Soriano, the Cubs pay your salary to play. You should play where ever they want you period and Rizzo has not earned any say so in where he should play! He should ask the FO what they think of him hitting 230 vs. 290 in the two hole.

      • terencemann

        The whole “2 hitter’s job is…” mentality is what I read this as, too. Sveum probably batted him 2nd thinking it would take the pressure off Rizzo and allow him to just make contact but that’s never ever Rizzo’s job. The whole idea that batters have any job in their spot in the lineup other than being the best hitter they can be is a terrible assumption in baseball. The modern concepts of a lineup have to do with putting batters where they will help the team score runs rather than trying to assign batting orders as though their positions on the field, with specific roles.

        • wvcubsfan

          I would say that for a hitter, making contact with the baseball is one of the most important things they can do to help the team score runs. So perhaps it was what was best for both player and team in this case. Quit trying so hard, quit thinking so much, just let the bat meet the ball and see what happens.

    • deej34

      I don’t think he thinks he is better. I think he is voicing a preference and a mentality, even if it is wrong. He signed a contract to be a leader and power hitter, I have no problem with him having that mentality that that is who he should be. Now he needs to back it up on the field and prove he belongs there.

      • Kevin

        He signed to be a team player, not a self-centered individual with a huge ego who is above doing anything that is asked of him to help the ballclub.

        • frank

          He said he wasn’t comfortable there afterward, but he moved when he was told to move, and he didn’t complain about it–that’s not what a “self-centered individual with a huge ego who is above doing anything that is asked of him to help the ballclub” does.

  • C. Steadman

    I’d like to see Soler in the 2 spot or castro if he can go back to his old self

    • Mr. B. Patient

      Good choice. he’s going to be a BIG OBP guy (hopefully), and I’m not sold on 30hr power. .380 OPS with 20-25 Hrs would be a nice #2.

      • jh03

        I dunno about you… but I sure as hell don’t want a .380 OPS in the two-hole… haha.

        • Kevin

          Rizzo has a .185 avg with RISP and 2 outs. Maybe we should change his name to Mr. CLUTCH!

          • Kygavin

            or we could realize clutch isnt a real attribute

            • Eternal pessemist

              The lack of current evidence of “clutch” will eventually be found IMO…i will return at that time to gloat!

              • hansman1982

                So what you are saying is we need the Derek Jeter of detectives on the case.

                • Eternal Pessimist

                  bingo!

          • gocatsgo2003

            … and a .208 BAbip with RISP probably doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with it…

        • jkppkj

          I sure as hell don’t want a .380 OPS in the lineup, period. That’s like .200-.250 below Barney/Campana

  • jh03

    I’ve thought Rizzo should bat second for awhile now. I, also, think that a *good* (emphasis on good) Starlin Castro would fit in nicely at the 3 hole, behind him. Logic being: Rizzo hits a ton of doubles/gets on base more than anyone else on the team. Starlin is the best contact hitter. Let Rizzo get on, and Starlin move him around with his contact ability. Starlin shouldn’t give up outs, but, he’ll put the ball in play and at least move him up and over, and get on as a by-product, a lot.

    Also, the 3 hole leads off an inning less than any other spot, so Starlins low OBP could play there. The major downfall is that Starlin doesn’t hit for much power, and that may be enough to debunk my entire idea lol.

    • Bails17

      Castro is a 6 or 7 hole hitter in a good line up. He doesn’t walk enough to bat at he top of the order. Even when he is battig .300+ he should be 6 or 7. That means we have guys like Rizzo/Almora type hitters in front of him that take more pitches and walk more.

      • MichiganGoat

        Well right now Castro is batting leadoff to simply get him the most PA.

      • jh03

        Once the prospects come up I can see Castro moving down. I was talking about with the lineup the Cubs have now. I can see a Rizzo/*good*Castro combo generating a bunch of runs. Then again, I might be crazy. lol.

  • DarthHater

    ” Isn’t it idiomatic that you want your best hitters getting the most plate appearances?”

    It may be axiomatic, but I really don’t think it’s idiomatic. :-P

    • Stinky Pete

      Well, that’s just idiotic…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Heh. I could make an argument that it’s idiomatic, but, yes, the word I meant to use was axiomatic.

      • DocPeter Wimsey

        If you could make it idiomatic as well as axiomatic, then that would go a long way towards getting players to behave properly even if they are not thinking about it!

        • miggy80

          Hey I learned two new words today. Yeah BN!~

        • wilbur

          This was nicely accomplished on SNL with the Bass-o-matic.

    • frank

      It could be idiomatic.

  • MichiganGoat

    If we keep Castro 1 (and we should get maximize his PA) and Rizzo won’t be 2, shouldn’t Schierholtz be batting 2?

  • http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/653cc0c5f0eded621ab13b4f631de7da.png Cizzle

    To me this argument is kind of like when a new Defensive Coordinator is brought in and he wants to run a 3-4. Well, for the past 3-5 years, players were acquired who best fit a 4-3 system, and you can’t just *make* a guy fit into a role. You need to organize the team based upon what you have, not what you want.
    Sure there’s an ideal lineup order, but if you don’t have the players that actually fit perfectly into each role you need to be more creative & flexible with the order.

  • arta

    i would think the best bat handler would hit 2nd (Sandberg), makes contact, hits to right, bunts, walks, decent average, etc. the best hitter (B. Williams) 3rd, power, RBI guy, hits for average, etc.

  • Jason

    Marlon Byrd just claimed by a National League club. Mets can trade or pull back with this team. Very valuable guy for the pennant chase.

  • OCCubFan

    Brett, another excellent article. I disagree, however, with the notion that Sveum understands the point that his best hitter should bat second. As evidence, note how many times Barney batted second.

    • DarthHater

      Are you suggesting that Barney is NOT the Cubs’ best hitter?

    • Spriggs

      Heck, Dale even led off Barney this year. Even horrible, traditional managers wouldn’t go that far… would they?

      • On The Farm

        Was that the game they scored 11 runs?

  • North Side Irish

    Baseball America ‏@BaseballAmerica 3m
    We say a very fond farewell to @jimcallisBA after 23 great years at Baseball America. http://ht.ly/ojoWz

    Big loss for BA…but it’s nice that MLB.com will finally have a good prospects guy.

  • Die hard

    Sveum was right only to extent that 2 hitter should be a lefty to make it easier for lead off to steal … If only Cubs had lead off who could steal… Wait– didn’t they have kid named Campana?

    • http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/653cc0c5f0eded621ab13b4f631de7da.png Cizzle

      The problem wasn’t stealing 2nd, it was getting to 1st.

      • frank

        Right–Campana’s most frequent trip was from the plate back to the dugout.

  • Jason

    Jim did a feature article on my son before he was drafted and it was very helpful. Maybe we can catch up at afl. 23 yrs is a long tenure.

  • Kygavin

    Thank you Brett for writing this. I have been arguing with a friend (Reds fan) that Votto should be hitting 2nd for them all year. Gonna go ahead and send him this link

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Votto and the Reds are the perfect example here.

  • mick

    Tony Campana 2 for 4 leading off with .345 B.A. Led Diamondbacks to victory with him stealing third base resulting in double steal and then both runners scoring. Has become a crowd favorite so good for little Tony

    • Die hard

      Case closed– another brilliant move

      • DarthHater

        Yes, case closed. So when the inevitable return to reality occurs, that won’t count, right?

        • DarthHater

          Junior lakes line stats after eleven games this season were: .362/.388/.553. Did you say the case was closed at that point on Junior, too?

        • bbmoney

          To update my very meaningful post from yesterday: Tony Campana has now been terrific in his 35 of PAs this year…….

          I’ll let you decide which part of that sentence is most meaningful.

          • mick

            BB My little updates on Campy may end abruptly but in meantime he is enjoying what he does best and fans get their money worth. Yes, it is what it is–a fleeting moment.

        • frank

          No, you can only close a case after 4 at bats.

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

    Sounds like the Cubs need to add a classroom element to their organization to teach these guys a thing or two…

  • North Side Irish

    Kiley McDaniel from Scout.com updated his Top 50 prospects list…#26-50 are free and includes C.J. Edwards. Assuming the Cubs will have more in the #1-25 list.

    http://sbb.scout.com/2/1319654.html

    • C. Steadman

      its good that CJ is finally getting recognition on some lists..outside Cubs and Rangers circles he’s not well known due to the fact he was a 48 rounder

    • http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/653cc0c5f0eded621ab13b4f631de7da.png Cizzle

      He had Kolek listed as top 7 domestic outside of the top 50 and he’s in HS. Kid is a beast. Also didn’t see any of Baez/Soler/Bryant/Alcantara/Almora in the 26-50, they can’t all be top 25, can they? I know it’s just one guy and one list, but damn.

      • C. Steadman

        i feel alcantara is sub 50…but i cant see Baez/Soler/Bryant/Almora bein sub 50 so they must be top 25…which would be insane

    • On The Farm

      Top 50 is very good praise for Edwards, I was just hoping for 75 range.

  • Voice of Reason

    There is talk about the improvement of Rizzo and Castro.

    While I’m concerned about Castro’s progression, I’m more concerned about Rizzo!! IF — and that’s a big IF — Castro can just hit .280 I would be fine with that.

    Rizzo, on the other hand, is playing one of those positions that we need heavy production. I’m not sold on him. That’s why it’s so important to watch the progression of Vogelbach. I read a post before that said Vogelbach can’t make it to the bigs with us because of Rizzo. I wouldn’t make that statement just yet.

    • On The Farm

      Something else to think about Rizzo has already done what Vogelbach is doing now. I wouldn’t be placing to much emphasis on some A+ stats displacing our 1B who is under contract for the next 7 years.

      • Voice of Reason

        So, in three years if Rizzo is hits .214 for the season with 10 home runs and 190 strikeouts with 20 walks he would still have the starting position just because he is under contract for 7 years?

        • mjhurdle

          no, but he wouldn’t be replaced because of someone’s A+ stats, which was kinda the point of the post.

        • On The Farm

          Really you think Rizzo is going to continue to regress? What you said was that we need to place more emphasis on a 20 year old who got to Daytona less than a month ago. What I said is Rizzo has been there, done that. It would be like me saying I should watch the development of Cael Brockmeyer because he looks like he is going to be a good hitter so watch out Wellington Castillo!!

          So far Rizzo has shown he can hit 20 HRS and walk at about a 10% rate. No I don’t think I need to keep a close eye on some A+ prospect because I am worried Rizzo can’t get it done. Rizzo is continuing to get on base while hitting homeruns and doubles.

          • Voice of Reason

            On The Farm wrote:

            “Rizzo is continuing to get on base while hitting homeruns and doubles.”

            So, you’re happy with the progress of Rizzo this year?

            • On The Farm

              Oh I am happy, I am not estatic, but I am happy. Rizzo walks about 11.2% of the time, compare that to the rest of the league he ranks #8 out of 27 1B. His ISO is at .197, which again puts him in the top 10 (#10) among all 1B. His K% numbers are up this year, he is K-ing 18.5% of the time, again he is in the top 10 lowest among 1B. But it all boils down to how is he as a complete player, his WAR ranks him #14 so league average overall among 1B.

              So let me recap, he ranks 12th in doubles (in the entire MLB), and has 20 HRs with a month of the season left. He walks over 10% of his plate appearances which is among the top 10 among 1B (and is #21 in the MLB!) so yeah I would say I am pretty happy with Rizzo’s performance as a 24 year old (I say that meaning he has yet to enter his peak years).
              Is that cool with you or are his walk numbers and the amount of power he provides not good enough for you?

              • ssckelley

                Seriously, happy? Honestly I am disappointed in Rizzo as I was hoping he would an .800+ OPS guy, which is really what production the Cubs need from 1st base. His struggles this year against left handed pitching has been a concern.

                • On The Farm

                  Just took a look at his 2012 and his 2013 wOBA vs. lefties. In 2012 it was .260, this year it is .300. While his struggles vs lefties is concerning, he seems to be showing improvement in that department (both years have samples over 100 PAs). As I have pointed out he has increased his BB% (almost by 4%), his power seems to be there (he is hitting a ton of HR+2B), and as I just mentioned he seems to be trending up in wOBA vs lefties. I am happy with his improvement.

                  • ssckelley

                    Your happy with his decrease in OPS? .Currently at .752 which is down from .805 last season.

                    The walks are ok but nothing that get me excited about a guy who is expected to drive in runs.

                    • gocatsgo2003

                      He still has a dreadfully low .254 BAbip… if that regresses back to a more “normal” level of .300 or so, his OPS will come back up with it.

                      To me, the increased BB-rate (7.3% to 11.2%) shows a young player who is increasing in his command of the strike zone and whose numbers should look a lot better overall with a normalized BAbip.

                    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

                      An .800 OPS true talent player is going to have years of .750 and some years of .850.

                      Lyle Overbay seems like an apt comparison.

                    • On The Farm

                      I started off by saying I was happy, not estatic, so just cool it a little bit. All I am saying is Rizzo is doing fine in terms of his BB%, he is hitting his share of 2B and HRs, and as I already pointed out he is still getting on base more vs lefties this season compared to last. Did I say Rizzo was a perfect player? No. If he was at an OPS of .800+ like last season I would be estatic. I am not acting like he is god’s gift to 1B, but I am pointing out he is still above league average in some important catagories. This entire conversation started because someone said we should just assume the Cubs current 1B under contract for the next 7 years is going to be here because of what Some 20 year old kid is doing in A+ ball. All I have ever said is that he has already done what Vogelbach has done, and the numbers he is putting up this season are above average. If you can’t look at Rizzo’s stat line and find anything to be happy about that I would call you a liar. I have read your comments on this board to know that you understand the sabermetric stats, which leads me to think you really just don’t like Rizzo, or you think the man crush on him is sickening and you don’t share the same feelings of the FO. That’s fine too. I don’t feel like I need to point out to you off all people my argument here that Rizzo is not a bad player, and is still having a season we can be happy about.

              • Voice of Reason

                On The Farm wrote:

                “Oh I am happy, I am not estatic, but I am happy. Is that cool with you or are his walk numbers and the amount of power he provides not good enough for you?”

                No, I’m not happy with his progression. I’m concerned. You seem to be setting the bar low? I know he is only 24, but we’re talking about PROGRESSION here! He is regressing in key stats!

                • On The Farm

                  Come find me when his BABIP “regresses” and talk to me then I guess. If you can’t find postives out of a guy who is walking more and getting more XBHs then I don’t know what to tell you? Setting the bar low? How am I setting the bar low if I want him to be at or above league average?

                  • Voice of Reason

                    You said you are happy with his progression and then you site your happiness based on a guy who is walking more and getting more xbhs?
                    Really?
                    You really are setting the bar low!

                    • On The Farm

                      Rizzo has an extremely low BABIP, if that would just tick up closer to his career average you would see his slash line increase and you would have nothing to whine about, but whatever I guess you are right. Who cares if Rizzo is hitting more doubles, and walking more, his average and OPS are down people! Lets just ignore BABIP!

  • http://vdcinc.biz 70’scub

    Best over all hitter bats 3rd. Like Chipper, D. Lee, Albert, Mark Grace and in time Rizzo. The two hitter is a high contact, doubles power down the lines and in both gaps with a great batting eye that works the starter hard in getting walks and punishes mistakes and like the leadoff hitter can “advance exceptionally on the base paths”. That would be Castro’s ceiling he is getting the deep counts but appears to expand the strike zone with 3-2, 2-2, 2-1 and 3-1 counts. For now he has improved in getting longer counts next he either puts it together or becomes a good 6-7 hitter. He is also fouling off far to many balls outside of the strike zone.

    • On The Farm

      “doubles power down the lines and in both gaps with a great batting eye that works the starter hard in getting walks and punishes mistakes ”

      This sounds exactly like Rizzo, who is a doubles machine, has a great batting eye. The only problem with him is his speed.

      • Voice of Reason

        The only problem you have with rizzo is his speed?

        Thank god you’re not analyzing our young talent.

        • On The Farm

          Just curious of what your definition of a guy with doubles power down the lines and in both gaps, and has a great batting eye? Because to me that sounds like Rizzo who not surprisingly is near the top in the league with doubles, has hit 20 HRs, and walks over 10% of the time.

          Thank god you aren’t a giant douchenozzle though!

    • SirCub

      “…a high contact, doubles power down the lines and in both gaps with a great batting eye that works the starter hard in getting walks and punishes mistakes…”

      Couldn’t that be the description for your “best over all hitter” ?

    • TWC

      “Best over all hitter bats 3rd.”

      That’s just an outdated approach to batting order, and there have been many analyses over the last decade that illustrated the reasons why.

      • Hawkeye

        You should inform most MLB teams that’s its outdated because that’s still the way the bulk of mlb lineup look.

        • TWC

          Yeah, no shit. That doesn’t mean it’s correct.

          The #3 batting position comes to the plate with 0 runners on and 2 outs more than any other position. Why would you want your best hitter regularly at the plate under those conditions?

      • wilbur

        None of the analyses you refer to have been conclusive nor would you expect them to be if they are based on statistical analyses. At best they’d give you some probabilistic statement over a set of assumptions and constants. The sum of which would make it not repeatable or even widely applicable in practice. Commenters have already touched on the element of speed and how that affects a teams batting order vs basing it solely on something like on base percentage or some other somewhat incomplete measure of “best hitter”.

        I think what Rizzo said was generally correct about batting second, based on conventional wisdom, which has attained conventional status for a reason, or actually a host of reasons over the years. The statistical “proofs” referred to are a chimera withoul a full understanding of the assumptions and associated conditions the analysis is based on.

        Most careful statisticians would never hazard any such conclusive proof statements based on their work, let alone someone elses. They might enjoy the attention and the discussion of the relevance of their work, but I doubt they’d be too public about proving anything, not if they are any good. Just because an analysis is numeric doesn’t make it a fact.

        • TWC

          Hey, man, use whatever justification works for you in order to pretend conventional wisdom is correct just because it’s conventional wisdom. I’ll continue to live in my spherical world, and you can stay on the flat part.

          “The statistical “proofs” referred to are a chimera withoul a full understanding of the assumptions and associated conditions the analysis is based on.”

          Blah blah blah. Who’s taling about “proof”? No one.

          The analysis that many folks have done over the last few decades of hundreds of thousands of baseball events has led them to conclude that many previously accepted “conventional wisdoms” don’t hold up, and that there were advantages that a savvy team could exploit if they were able to.

          But it’s important to keep in mind that the generalizations in The Book, Baseball Between The Lines, and its ilk, are generalizations, and no single team is ever going to precisely fit those generalizations. When it comes to everyday lineups, these are people, not just stat lines. Sabermetric generalizations are a really good guide. But they’re not the rule. And neither is conventional wisdom.

  • BABIP (MichCubFan)

    Rizzo’s problems are mostly mechanical. If they can get him to turn his hips and keep him from striding closed that would be a good start. Then he also could stay inside the ball a little better. He also has the pre-swing bat movement that probably affects his timing.

    Then Castro just needs to hit the reset button. He is just tied up in knots right now and has to come back and start fresh next year. He just needs to make better contact. Not more contact, he still does that. He just needs to hit more line drives. He is hitting way too many ground balls this year. He also shouldn’t ditch the plate discipline thing. This is just what happens when you force a guy to make adjustments at the major league level that should have been worked on in A or AA ball. Much harder to adjust. So many issues stacked together in one season.

  • Carew

    I believe in the old school lineup. I think the two hole is the second or third best OBP guy that can hit situationally. I think David Dejesus would be an example of a great 2-hole hitter.

  • http://. Sven-Erik312

    It’s every hitters job to move the runners forward how ever he can. As Brett said, sometimes a bunt is called for, but not always. As with everything else, it depends on the situation. As I see it, the only time these numbers are important is the first inning of play. After that, it’s irrelevant. If the 8 hitter gets on base, that makes the “Two hitter” the clean up man. These numbers have no value after the first inning.

    • bbmoney

      I disagree. I think it’s every hitters job to focus on making as few outs as possible.

      Productive outs are better than non-productive outs. But as they are outs, I’d still rather just have the hitter focusing on getting on base rather than moving runners along however he can (bunting, hitting to the right side of the infield, etc.)

      • wilbur

        Does this mean that having a runner in scoring position isn’t important? If you can bunt a guy into scoring postion 70% of the time, isn’t that a better approach in a tied game than just trying to optimize your batters on base percentage? You’re trying to win each game against a given opponent, not trying to maximize some dimensionless metric. Another way to put it is, solve the opponent, don’t try and solve the game.

        • Drew7

          “Does this mean that having a runner in scoring position isn’t important?”

          Sure it is – but obviously you know that.

          Shouldn’t you be asking, “Does this mean that giving away an out in order to have a runner in scoring position is bad?”

          The answer, in most cases, is “yes”.

  • Robert Johnson

    I was totally turned off by Rizzo’s comments. I was convinced he was a total team player until I heard his discussion on where to hit in the lineup. I guess this is what you get when you give multi year contracts to players that haven’t proven themselves!

    • @cubsfantroy

      So he isn’t a team player because he didn’t like hitting second and voiced his opinion on it? Sounds legit.

    • mjhurdle

      i think you may be reading just a little bit too much into a discussion about lineups…

    • JoeyCollins

      Seriously? I want my players to be willing to voice their concern when they feel uncomfortable doing something. As long as they still try and don’t complain, which is what Rizzo did, there’s nothing wrong with it. He can’t help being uncomfortable in that position, he’s never done it before, and has been mislead as to what it means, but if he makes it known the coaching staff can help to fix the problem.

  • Matt

    For a louder take on this subject and for anyone that likes aggressive music I encourage you to listen to this 1 minute song by Puig Destroyer (which features both the guys from the Productive Outs podcast). Oh and read the lyrics because it’s near impossible to understand what he’s screaming.

    http://puigdestroyer.bandcamp.com/track/stop-fucking-bunting

  • Rich H

    Will Clark, Larry Walker, Jim Edmonds, and Beltran…… What do they all have in common? They were the 2 hole hitters for Stl Cards a majority of the time over the last 15 years. You would think their success out of the second spot in the order would put Rizzo`s type of thinking to bed.

    • ssckelley

      Some day when the Cubs have other quality hitters in their lineup like Holiday, Pujols, and McGwire like those Cardinal teams had then the Cubs can afford to put a Rizzo type hitter in the 2 spot.

  • Stu

    Being a speed leadoff hitter is already negated by a higher OBP guy by definition. ALso, stolen bases are not a great prediction of success.

    Since time and time again, OBP correlates highly with success, why not bat your highest OBP guy first, the next one second, etc.?

    Has that been tried?

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