Friday, February 26, 2010

Victor or Dustin?

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)

Walk rate
Martinez: 11.2 percent
Pedroia: 10.4 percent

Isolated power (ISO)
Martinez: .177
Pedroia: .152

Line-drive rate
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.


Anonymous said...

The thing is, Pedroia's numbers are somewhat illusory. He is a career .283/.350/.406/.756 hitter away from Fenway (140 OPS points lower than his line at home). Not bad, but hardly what you expect from a #3 hitter

Personally, I think he should stay hitting 2nd. He will get on base much more than Scutaro will

Norton said...

Brian, even bringing up the notion of putting pedroia in the 3-hole is ludicrous. It would completely disrupt the "balance" theory that Francona has long preached unless you were to completely work the top of your lineup. For more insight and what the lineup will most likely look like opening day check my blog.