Should the Red Sox decide to move Dustin Pedroia out of his customary No. 2 spot to make room for Marco Scutaro, they'll have to make a decision: Either Victor Martinez or Dustin Pedroia will have to hit in the No. 3 spot with the other bumping down to No. 5. Reports out of Fort Myers had Pedroia ready and willing to hit fifth, but that should be far from a foregone conclusion.
A team typically should slot its best hitter in the No. 3 spot in its batting order. Who's the best hitter the Red Sox have?
Well, actually, that's a trick question. Kevin Youkilis is the best hitter in the Red Sox lineup -- and one of the best hitters in the American League. But because Youkilis hits for more power than either Martinez or Pedroia, he's a natural fit in the No. 4 spot in the batting order.
J.D. Drew, too, ought to be a candidate to hit in the No. 3 spot. He was one of just six players in the American League last season -- Youkilis, Miguel Cabrera, Joe Mauer, Alex Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist were the others -- to compile an on-base percentage of better than .390 and a slugging percentage of better than .500. On a rate basis, he's one of the elite hitters in the American League.
But if the Red Sox didn't hit Drew in the No. 3 spot after David Ortiz was bumped down to the bottom half of the lineup -- that duty fell to Youkilis, with Bay hitting cleanup -- they're probably not going to do so this season.
(Hitting Drew in the No. 3 spot would be the best way for Theo Epstein and Terry Francona to shut up all the "Drew sucks because he hits eighth!" voices, but it's a credit to both that shutting up their detractors is not among their priorities.)
That leaves Martinez and Pedroia -- and that means it's time for a side-by-side comparison:
2009 slash lines
Martinez: .303/.381/.480 (.861 OPS)
Pedroia: .296/.371/.447 (.819 OPS)
Career slash lines
Martinez: .299/.372/.465 (.837 OPS)
Pedroia: .307/.370/.455 (.825 OPS)
Martinez: 11.2 percent
Pedroia: 10.4 percent
Isolated power (ISO)
Martinez: 21 percent
Pedroia: 18 percent
What does this tell you?
Well, Martinez has better numbers than Pedroia across the board -- not by much of a margin, but, still, better numbers across the board. Martinez probably should hit in the No. 3 hole in the Red Sox lineup -- and this might mean that Pedroia still might be the best fit at No. 2, since dropping him all the way down to No. 5 might be a waste of his on-base skills.
But it's fascinating that this Red Sox team, one whose lineup has caused so much consternation, has options like this.