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  • CAMPAIGN: Elect Joe Mauer for #2 Hitter

    Earlier last week, I looked at the Minnesota Twins possible candidates for the leadoff hitter role in 2013. With Denard Span and Ben Revere traded to the National League, there is some question about who will step up and earn the leadoff spot out of spring training. Aaron Hicks looks like the leadoff hitter of the future but that doesn't mean that he will start the year in Minnesota. This could leave a big hole in the first spot in the batting order.

    One candidate I discussed was catcher Joe Mauer.
    He consistently gets on base and this is a huge part of being the first batter in the order. In the end, I know the Twins won't move their $23 million man to the leadoff role but he could still find success in that spot. But with Ron Gardenhire as manager, it seems most likely that Mauer will be penciled into the number three spot. That is where Mauer got the majority of his at-bats in 2012 and there is no reason to think that would be different in the coming year. However, for the Twins to find more success in 2013, I am offering up another option.

    Mauer should be moved to the number two spot in the order.

    This seems like a plan that plenty of fans could get behind and support. For too long, fans have been accustomed to seeing a light hitting middle infielder or an outfielder that slaps the ball take the second most plate appearances. It is time to take back the number two spot in the order!

    While it could be tough enough to find a body for the first spot in the order on Opening Day, it could make it twice as hard to find someone for the number two spot. If Hicks is sent to Rochester for a little more experience, that would leave Darin Mastroianni or Jamey Carroll for the first couple spots in the order. These players might be able to find success there but having Mauer at number two would be much more beneficial.

    The Twins tried Carroll near the top of the order at the beginning of last season and it didn't work out so great. As a number two hitter, he batted .260/.330/.296 over 42 games. He was much more effective as bottom of the order hitter.

    Other options for the Twins for the number two spot are even scarier. Depending on who wins the starting middle infield jobs out of spring training, there could be a host of very light hitting players fighting for the number two spot. The other candidates are Pedro Florimon, Brian Dozier, and Eduardo Escobar. None of these three men have a career OBP of over .300 and it is hard to imagine them getting the opportunity to hit that early in the line-up.

    That leaves Mauer as the obvious choice to move up one spot in the batting order. As Twins fans know, Mauer isn't going to hit for a ton of power so it isn’t essential to have him in the middle of the order. He gets on base at an incredible rate and that skill should be utilized higher as the number two hitter.

    The number two hitter role isn't completely foreign to Mauer, as he has started 73 games in this position during the course of his career. Besides the number three spot in the order, he has accumulated more at-bats in the number two spot than all of the other spots combined. It's a small sample size when compared to the rest of his career but he has a higher slugging percentage when he bats in this spot.

    As far as the rest of the batting order, Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau would be able to slide up one spot to keep the middle of the line-up as a threat. Willingham is coming off the best season of his career and he could thrive as the number three hitter. Morneau will be entering next season after his first fully healthy offseason in multiple years.


    Overall, the Twins are going to need a lot of things to break right for them to find success next season. The rotation could be a mess and it doesn't look like there will be much help coming in 2013. Mauer moving to the number two spot in the line-up could be a small step to making the turn for the future. He seems to fit the mold of a number two hitter and this spot looks open on the current roster.

    It only seems natural to "Elect Mauer for the number two hitter!"


    This article was originally published in blog: CAMPAIGN: Elect Mauer for number two hitter started by Cody Christie
    Comments 54 Comments
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Quote Originally Posted by snepp View Post
      So if Mauer starts showing more power you want to give him fewer plate appearances?
      Yes, but hopefully with more men on base. It seems to me that if he increases his extra base hits, it might make more sense for him to bat #3.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      Obviously a hell yes from me.

      The old adage is wrong. The best OBP and overall hitters should be batting 1,2, and 4, with a speedier type batting first and a power guy 4th. The guy batting 3rd should be a slugger because he often comes up with no one on base and two out in the first inning (Willingham). Batting fifth should be another slugger, but one who shouldn't live and die with it and simply be a HR or K guy.

      Disclaimer: lineup construction is somewhat overrated and does really only take shape in the first inning (though it can still be the case in 1-4 innings in tight games).

      That said:

      X
      Mauer
      Willingham
      Morneau (here's to hoping that he returns to form in 2013.
      Doumit
      Plouffe
      Parmelee
      X
      X

      would seem to make the most sense.
      That order does make a lot of sense and is why Gardy won't use it. He'll have Mastro/Hicks at the top and Carroll/Dozier in the 2-slot, with Florimon or one of the above in the #9 spot. I could see one minor adjustment, keeping the L/R splits going by flipping Plouffe and Parmelee.

      On the matter of Parmelee, I think with the dearth of punch at the top of the order and the likelihood that Hicks won't be seeing action until at least his Super2 Arb date at the earliest, it's time to consider the highly unconventional as a possible antidote to the hitting conundrum the Twins have placed themselves into:

      Chris Parmelee in the #2 slot.

      That's right, I said it. Left-handed pull hitter? Check. Contact hitter? Check. Low GIDP rate? Check. High OBP rate? Check.

      Before you completely dismiss the notion because of his obvious (conventional) flaws in the 2-hole, consider the following points:

      1) Parm would greatly benefit hitting in front of Mauer and behind the always-baserunning threat represented by Mastro and eventually, Hicks....versus....hitting in front of an automatic out and behind the lumbering herd in the #7#8 spot.

      2) Bill James projects that Parmelee will have the #2 OBP on the team @ .359 with Mauer #1 (.407) and Willingham #3 @ .354. This fits perfectly within your definition of having Parmelee up at the top of the order, not at the bottom! Since Mauer is never going to be moved from the 3 spot, the logical choice is Parmelee.

      3) The AL average slash line for the #2 spot in 2012 was : .254/.314/.389/.703 Bill James projects Parm to produce this slash in 2013: .274/.359/.457/.816. Even if this is optimistic, it leaves considerable room on the downside for Parm to significantly outproduce the league at the spot.

      4) The top team in production for the #2 spot in the AL in 2012? I'm glad you asked. Why, that would be the New York Yankees, here's their slash: .253/.341/.479/.820 (The next closest OPS was .771 by the Angels!) This was produced with Nick Swisher getting a big chunk of the ABs. Here's his slash in the 2-hole: .244/.347/.449/.796 Granderson got a little over 50% of the ABs in the spot with this slash: .249/.341/.517/.858
      According to James for 2013, Parmelee projects to walk at or near the same rate as both (11.0%) and strike out much less than either (only 18.3%).


      5) JJ Hardy batted primarily lead off or #2 in 2011. Here's his slash line for both: .269/.310/.491/801 Batting almost exclusively in the #2 spot in 2012: .238/.282/.389/.671 He added 20 HRs to his total. Shouldn't the Twins be thrilled if they got production (including a 20HR season) somewhere inbetween those 2 seasons in the 2-spot? I have to believe that might be the best #2 line in Twins history short of a terrific Carew season when he got the bulk of his ABs in the #2 spot. BTW, Hardy had ZERO SBs in 2012, Swisher had all of 3 SBs, Granderson had 6 SBs in the #2 spot. Swisher and Granderson each had only 1 sacrifice bunt in 2012, Hardy had 2 in 2011.

      6) I would venture to guess that Bill James' projections would tend to be made based on Parmelee batting at the bottom of the order. Isn't it possible that if Parmelee can handle the pressure and responsibility of batting 2nd that it would give him greater hitting opportunities to have a shot at meeting and possibly exceeding the James projections?
      Why don't we take a chance and find out?
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by glunn View Post
      Yes, but hopefully with more men on base. It seems to me that if he increases his extra base hits, it might make more sense for him to bat #3.
      It seems to me that this has more to do with the players hitting in front of him than it does with him hitting for more power. If the guys in front of him aren't very good, all hitting 3rd is going to accomplish is to give more plate appearances to poor hitters.

      If you have these two options, which one makes more sense?

      1. Lousy Hitter
      2. Putrid Hitter
      3. Mauer
      4-9 other guys

      or

      1. Lousy Hitter
      2. Mauer
      3-8 other guys
      2. Putrid Hitter

      You've got the same guys leading up to Mauer in both instances, with option two giving a bad hitter 150 fewer plate appearances in the process. He isn't going to magically get more players on base if he hits 3rd instead of 2nd unless the players hitting in front of him get better in the process.
    1. PopRiveter's Avatar
      PopRiveter -
      Jokin, I enjoyed reading your Parmelee argument. It seems pretty reasonable. I'd add that for those who fear Mauer's GiDP numbers, Parmelee should double a lot. Certainly more than Carroll/Dozier/Escobar/Florimon.
      P.S. I really dislike even writing Escobar and Florimon's names in that sentence. Here's hoping a waiver claim or MiLB free agent can knock one of 'em off the depth chart.
    1. edavis0308's Avatar
      edavis0308 -
      To kind of piggyback the idea of batting Parm in the #2 spot, Nick Johnson has the most AB in his career out of the #2 spot. Granted he is a career .399 OBP, but the point is puttng someone there that can get on base. Not play second base.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Bill James is probably the most optimistic projector on the web. Having room for downside doesn't include the chance that Parmelee falls completely flat on his face. Again. Imo the Twins should keep as much pressure off of him (and Plouffe) as possible and keep them behind the Twins big 4 hitters.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      Bill James is probably the most optimistic projector on the web. Having room for downside doesn't include the chance that Parmelee falls completely flat on his face. Again. Imo the Twins should keep as much pressure off of him (and Plouffe) as possible and keep them behind the Twins big 4 hitters.
      I agree on the pressure argument being the prime negative to the prospect of moving Parmelee up. Sadly, this is probably the argument that Gardy & Co. would least likely consider in their conventional opposition to making the move. They would no doubt publicly counter with his inability to play at 2nd base, lack of bunting skills and speed, career SLG and OBP averages way too high for the #2-hole, etc. I've already shown that at least 2 teams have been quite successful throwing that old-school "conventional wisdom" on its ear.

      I just think that in a lost season, no chance for slotting Mauer at #2, the incentive at keeping Carroll's PAs under 401 and with the remaining alternatives being simply dreadful, it sure seems worth the small gamble at giving Parmelee a shot and see if he responds to the challenge. If he does fall flat on his face, my answer would be "so what?"; the Twins have already thrown up the white flag, time to experiment a little and see what ya got, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by edavis0308 View Post
      To kind of piggyback the idea of batting Parm in the #2 spot, Nick Johnson has the most AB in his career out of the #2 spot. Granted he is a career .399 OBP, but the point is puttng someone there that can get on base. Not play second base.
      What Twins fan wouldn't be stoked if Parmelee could have a Nick Johnson-type career? What the heck, why not just sign Johnson and make him your #2-hole guy, batting DH to show Parmelee how it's done. He'll undoubtedly sign for cheap, perhaps a minor league deal. You could move Mauer to a platoon slot @ Third and pt Catcher to make room for Johnson's bat in the lineup. If it proves that Johnson has nothing left in the tank, you can soon part ways early in the season with nothing lost and perhaps something gained with Parmelee learning something from the old pro.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Interesting to see the Parmelee and Nick Johnson discussion. I always liked Johnson a LOT when he was healthy. But therein lies the problem.

      Parmelee batting second is interesting to me (if Gardenhire is simply unwilling to bat Mauer there).

      Of the MI options, only Carroll could conceivably be considered in the top two spots. And I really fail to see any real reason to worry about Carroll's 401 plate appearances. Isn't it $2 million? Who cares?
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I really cannot entertain any arguments that Mauer should be the 3 hitter. He should be the leadoff hitter, if speed and power weren't the two vital components after OBP in terms of scoring runs. So failing 1 or 3, he should bat second.

      One alternative that I would be willing to consider would be leading off Mastro (absent Hicks) against lefties only, and then either batting Mauer leadoff against righties, or um, Parmelee or something.

      That leads to a further point: there is a way to really maximize this lineup based on R/L splits (especially if Herrmann and/or Colabello were on the roster, but alas). Gardy won't do that, we know, but still. For instance there is just ZERO reason not to have Mastro-Mauer-Willingham in most games against lefties (and some of those times substituting Mauer out for Carroll or whomever). Plouffe could bat 5th behind Morneau in such a situation.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      Interesting to see the Parmelee and Nick Johnson discussion. I always liked Johnson a LOT when he was healthy. But therein lies the problem.

      Parmelee batting second is interesting to me (if Gardenhire is simply unwilling to bat Mauer there).

      Of the MI options, only Carroll could conceivably be considered in the top two spots. And I really fail to see any real reason to worry about Carroll's 401 plate appearances. Isn't it $2 million? Who cares
      ?
      Not yours or my money, so, yeah, "who cares?" The Twins FO certainly does and carrying the risk of a 40 year old utility guy at $2M when you will have plenty of alternative options for less than $1/2M by 2014 makes it likely that Carroll will be gone. If he is having a good season at the top of the order in 2013, the Twins would be guilty of malfeasance if they didn't consider moving him for a prospect before the deadline. You're correct, the only MI they should consider for the top 2 spots should be Carroll, but that won't stop Gardy from jamming square pegs (Dozier, Flori, Esco) into round holes- remember that Gardy loved himself a lot of Lil' Nicky's first-base sliding, lousy OPS/OPB in the #2-hole in Punto's early days with the Twins.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by PopRiveter View Post
      P.S. I really dislike even writing Escobar and Florimon's names in that sentence. Here's hoping a waiver claim or MiLB free agent can knock one of 'em off the depth chart.
      The Rays have 6/7 SS on their 40-man roster, with Escobar, Zobrist and Elliot Johnson listed as the top 3 on their depth chart. They also have a superstar in the making on the 40-man in Hak-Ju Lee, just 22 years old. The Twins could trade a legit prospect to get him or get one of the 2 guys the Rays might be forced to waive due to the numbers game. I really like Sean Rodriguez (age 27), or take a strong look at former top draft choice, Tim Beckham, playing AAA ball at age 22 and in severe need of a fresh start with a new organization. Blacklisted Ryan Brett would be a great get at 2B, possibly available in an inconsequential trade and maybe only a year and a half away from taking over Second Base at age 22.
    1. SweetOne69's Avatar
      SweetOne69 -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      I'm not sure there's a more worthless stat to judge a batter by than GDP.
      I agree. Based on GDP, Miguel Cabrera is the worst hitter in baseball.

      All the GDP tells you is that the batter puts the ball in play a lot. Mauer has a low K rate and gets out 67% of the time so that means that he puts the ball in play a lot.

      Over his career, Mauer has 3933AB, 1270H, 475K and 130 GDP. Which means he grounded into a DP 130 times out of the 2188AB where he put the ball in play to record an out. Less than 6% of his non strikeout outs resulted in a DP. What a terrible hitter.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by SweetOne69 View Post
      I agree. Based on GDP, Miguel Cabrera is the worst hitter in baseball.

      All the GDP tells you is that the batter puts the ball in play a lot. Mauer has a low K rate and gets out 67% of the time so that means that he puts the ball in play a lot.

      Over his career, Mauer has 3933AB, 1270H, 475K and 130 GDP. Which means he grounded into a DP 130 times out of the 2188AB where he put the ball in play to record an out. Less than 6% of his non strikeout outs resulted in a DP. What a terrible hitter.
      exactly...hitters who strike out little, make a lot of contact, and have runners on base in front of them often will occasionally GDP. Last year, Mauer GDP in less than 4% of his plate appearances.

      In 2011, the top 5 in GDP were Pujols, AGone, Hunter, Ortiz and Miguel Cabrera.

      I mean, seriously, you have to be grasping at straws to worry about GDP...
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      exactly...hitters who strike out little, make a lot of contact, and have runners on base in front of them often will occasionally GDP. Last year, Mauer GDP in less than 4% of his plate appearances.

      In 2011, the top 5 in GDP were Pujols, AGone, Hunter, Ortiz and Miguel Cabrera.

      I mean, seriously, you have to be grasping at straws to worry about GDP...
      They don't call him "Grasping Gardy" for nothing.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      exactly...hitters who strike out little, make a lot of contact, and have runners on base in front of them often will occasionally GDP. Last year, Mauer GDP in less than 4% of his plate appearances.

      In 2011, the top 5 in GDP were Pujols, AGone, Hunter, Ortiz and Miguel Cabrera.

      I mean, seriously, you have to be grasping at straws to worry about GDP...
      GDPs as a negative stat are over-emphasised, to be sure. But on the downside and possibly somewhat concerning long-term, Mauer's GB/FB was almost as bad as his especially bad 2011 season (2.35 vs. 2.57), his GB% was 52.6% vs. his 2011 career-worst 55.4%, that and career lows the past 2 seasons in FB% indicate that he has adopted a somewhat consistently shorter and flatter plane on his swing. I would gladly trade some of those all-too-many seeing-eye carpet-crawling singles in exchange for a slightly lower OBP and more gap doubles and FBs off the wall from the #3 spot in the order. Also, his K% was a glaringly-noticeable career-high of 13.4%. That being said, minimizing his catching duties can help maintain him in producing a rich-man's version of a Wade Boggs-career set of numbers through the end of his contract (Mauer has a career OPS of .873 vs Bogg's .858 career OPS). All of this still strongly suggests that Mauer should be batting #1 or #2 ( It's arguable that Mauer should bat #1 depending on how quickly Hicks adapts to big-league pitching).
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      GDPs as a negative stat are over-emphasised, to be sure. But on the downside and possibly somewhat concerning long-term, Mauer's GB/FB was almost as bad as his especially bad 2011 season (2.35 vs. 2.57), his GB% was 52.6% vs. his 2011 career-worst 55.4%, that and career lows the past 2 seasons in FB% indicate that he has adopted a somewhat consistently shorter and flatter plane on his swing. I would gladly trade some of those all-too-many seeing-eye carpet-crawling singles in exchange for a slightly lower OBP and more gap doubles and FBs off the wall from the #3 spot in the order. Also, his K% was a glaringly-noticeable career-high of 13.4%. That being said, minimizing his catching duties can help maintain him in producing a rich-man's version of a Wade Boggs-career set of numbers through the end of his contract (Mauer has a career OPS of .873 vs Bogg's .858 career OPS). All of this still strongly suggests that Mauer should be batting #1 or #2 ( It's arguable that Mauer should bat #1 depending on how quickly Hicks adapts to big-league pitching).
      He hits way too well with RISP to do that. He hits better than Willingham with RISP, even this last season in WIllingham's career year. I like Mauer in the 3 spot.

      Mauer needs to stop listening to the masses and stop trying to pull the ball so much. Those GB rates would go back to normal.
    1. BrentMpls's Avatar
      BrentMpls -
      Not Gardy's way. While this might be his last year, and I wouldn't put it past him to finally make this change, I kinda doubt it.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      He hits way too well with RISP to do that. He hits better than Willingham with RISP, even this last season in WIllingham's career year. I like Mauer in the 3 spot.

      Mauer needs to stop listening to the masses and stop trying to pull the ball so much. Those GB rates would go back to normal.
      Not much use for a high BAw/ RISP when there won't be many RISPs in the first place (and hitting W/ RISP has an element of luck, anyway), it can't be emphasised enough how bad the Twins project to be at the top of the order, I'm talking Seattle Mariners bad. BTW, I'm not one of the fans you're talking about in Mauer pulling the ball more, just take a few more cuts on a slight upward plane to get some more lift out of the infield. That's why the Red Sox were salivating about Mauer using the Green Monster like a billiard cushion.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by BrentMpls View Post
      Not Gardy's way. While this might be his last year, and I wouldn't put it past him to finally make this change, I kinda doubt it.
      To be fair, there is only one manager in the entire league I believe would bat Mauer second given this lineup. (Maddon) So I'm not sure Gardy-bashing is appropriate.
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