San Francisco Giants’ No. 2 hitter is …. Hunter Pence?

San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence singles against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of the Giants' 5-2 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Sunday, June 30, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence singles against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of the Giants’ 5-2 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Sunday, June 30, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy unveiled a lineup Thursday night against the A’s that he said could be the Giants’ opening day lineup.

It went like this:

  1. CF Angel Pagan
  2. RF Hunter Pence
  3. 3B Brandon Belt
  4. C Buster Posey
  5. 3B Pablo Sandoval
  6. LF Mike Morse
  7. 2B Joaquin Arias
  8. SS Brandon Crawford

You’ll notice the player Bochy plugged into the No. 2 spot normally occupied by 2B Marco Scutaro, who will open the season on the DL.

Now a lot gets talked about batting order. Sabermatricians will tell you that batting order does matter, but only slightly.

However, the stat geeks will also tell you the best batting order is one that is based on descending order of on-base percentage or OPS.

But what numbers do you use to open the season? Spring training numbers or last year’s numbers?

Here is what the Giants’ lineup would look like based on decreasing OBP from spring training:

  1. C Buster Posey
  2. RF Hunter Pence
  3. LF Mike Morse
  4. 1B Brandon Belt
  5. 2B Joaquin Arias
  6. 3B Pablo Sandoval
  7. CF Angel Pagan
  8. SS Brandon Crawford

Now on decreasing OBP from 2013:

  1. C Buster Posey
  2. 1B Brandon Belt
  3. 3B Pablo Sandoval
  4. RF Hunter Pence
  5. CF Angel Pagan
  6. SS Brandon Crawford
  7. 2B Joaquin Arias
  8. LF Mike Morse

OK, we can agree that Bochy is nowhere near going to a strictly sabermetric lineup. So let’s look at conventional wisdom when putting together lineup.

Conventional wisdom says your leadoff hitter brings a combination of a good OBP and speed (sometimes speed seems to win out).

You’re No. 2 hitter should be patient and selective (allowing for leadoff runner to steal second — provided he even arrived on first base in the first place), should not strikeout much, have good bat control and if he has speed, that’s a bonus.

Your No. 3 hitter is generally the best overall hitter in your lineup.

Your No. 4 hitter is your best power threat. No. 5 is your second-best power threat. Nos. 6-8 basically based on descending quality of hitter.

Scutaro fit well in the No. 2 hole because he sees a lot of pitches (3.89 per PA, third-best on team) and he has an excellent contact rate (94.3 pct, tops on team).

Pence saw 3.77 pitches per AB (just under league average). His contact rate of 75.5 percent is also below league average.

But looking at the lineup, there weren’t a lot of better options, using those two measurements.

Brandon Belt saw 3.98 pitches per PA, but his contact rate was 77.3. His strikeout percentage of 21.9 made him the only regular to whiff above league average. Brandown Crawford saw 3.76 pitches per PA. Joaquin Arias 3.17.

So while conventional wisdom says Pence should be the Giants’ cleanup hitter, Bochy’s willingness to put him No. 2 shows that’s he’s willing to break with conventional wisdom.

“He does give you speed, plus he’s a guy who can hit the ball out of the ballpark, too,” Bochy said of Pence, who went 2 for 4 on Thursday. “That’s not a bad thing to have at the top of the order.”

Pence, who batted No. 2 for 45 games in his rookie season with the Astros (hitting .296), says likes the idea of batting second.

But he added: “I’m probably not going to be bunting.”

1 Comment

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