Just as he did last year, Pence has been hitting like crazy in Spring Training. So far, he’s hitting .397/.417/.735/1.152 – the team best (with over 30 PA). He’s leading in XBH with 13, has 7 doubles, 2 triples, 4 homers, 3 BB, 7 K and 2 SB with no CS. I’m gonna go back to calling him Hitter Pence.
I’m going to quote him (his entry) from his blog, Inside The Ballpark (which is mostly written and edited by a GIRL!!!!!!)
“On another note, it’s been good to see Tejada these last couple days. Itís unbelievable how he flipped the switch right after our off-day. I’ll be honest I wasn’t sure about his swing until now, but he is playing a different game than before. That’s what is so amazing about the veterans, they know just how to get themselves right in spring training. Most of them work on things until the last week then amp it up to a new level whenever they want. Every at-bat early in spring he wasn’t in good rhythm and now all of a sudden, he hasn’t had a bad at-bat in three days. You could say that’s just the ups and downs of baseball, but he literally told us “Now itís time to get it going.” And that’s just what he has done.”
Fascinating – here and I wonder if Tejada (and the rest of the infielders) can manage to flip that “on switch” with regard to suckulous fielding. Oh – and if that “veteran” crap is true, then what is going on with Ty Wigginton and his .607 OPS, with Carlos Lee and his .256 BA (yes, his OPS is .859, but remember this is Houston and that is what Mo Ensberg had when the fans started calling for his head – gotta have a high BA around here…)
Anyway, the question is whether or not the Astros would be better off in the long run with Matsui or Pence in the #2 hole.
Let’s take a look at Matsui – as I wrote in December, in 2007, at Coors, he hit .411/.476/.500/.976 in 56 AB over 17 games. Away from Coors, he hit .225/.260/.320/.580 in 187 AB over 53 games. INteresting that all of a sudden, he had HUGE Coors/away from Coors splits. (And people are REALLY making a LOT out of that 56 AB at Coors. Darin Erstad has an .813 OPS in 50 AB for ST – does anyone REALLY think he’s gonna hit .313 or slug .500 for the rest of the year????)
Last year, away from Coors, Matsui hit .249/.304/.333/.638 in 213 AB over 55 games. And, mind you, he only started in 2/3 of all games played last year. Over his 4 years in the majors, his non-Coors line is .256/.305/.367/.672 in 1127 AB over 309 games (he has 66 more games played at Coors, where he hits like crazy) with 46 SB and 6 CS.
His lifetime OBP over 1522 PA (including Coors) is .325 and his SLG is .387. Now, we ARE talking about having this guy hit second. Yes, I KNOW that he runs very fast and steals bases 62 SB with 9 CS lifetime, and that he almost never GIDP – he has 7 lifetime (which is about the 8 week totals for Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada and Ty Wigginton. EACH, that is.)
Now, let’s look at Hitter Pence: .322/.360/.539/.899 – 10 GIDP in 484 PA, 11 SB, 5 CS (and at LEAST 3 of those CS were pickoffs.)
So the question to me is, first, what is the job of a #2 hitter? Is it to be a second leadoff man? If so, then the #2 guy should have the leadoff man’s MOST important skill, getting to first base in the first place, by a hit, walk, error, HBP, whatever. Matsui’s non-Coors on-base is .305. Which is BAD. Even if you look at all his stats, his on-base is .325 – which is lousy. The GOOD thing about Matsui is that he almost never GIDP. However, he seldom drives in runs because he doesn’t hit for either average or power, so he has to move the runner for the next hitter, either by hitting or bunting. The situation would be similar to the one Jimy Williams arranged in 2004 with Biggio hitting leadoff and Everett hitting second. Even if Matsui bunted Bourn over, manager would seldom walk Berkman to get to Lee or Tejada (unless, of course, they were hoping for a double play) just as managers seldom walked Bagwell to get to Kent – at least, that’s the idea.
So, the question is, in the long run, is a team better off with 2 non-slugging .325 OBP “leadoff guys” hitting first and second to increase the stolen bases, or is it better to have one of them hit 8th and have a higher OBP/SLH hitter hitting second? So I think that the answer would be – who creates more runs, the guy with the .305 OBP/.387 SLG who steals bases with approximately an 80% success rate and doesn’t create 2 outs with a GIDP
selecting one of the fast guys to leadoff, then having a fast guy with a .360 OBP/539 SLG who GIDP 10 times last year, but who can also steal bases.
Well, last year, his supposedly “good” year, Matsui had (-)7 RCAA (runs created above average for second basemen in the ML last year, not park adjusted.) Pence, for most of the year batting behind Biggio and his .286 OBP, had 18 RCAA.
Remembering that the second hitter in the lineup gets approximately 60 more PA/year than the 6th hitter, wouldn’t it be more sensible to have the BETTER hitter hitting second?
I vote Pence.
Now, for rumors: I hear tell that Wade is looking for pitching (gee, what a shock). Patterson signed with the Rangers, but he’s a reclamation project who very well might not pan out. I ALSO hear tell that Wade is talking 3rd basemen – gee, could it be Wiggy’s .217 BA or his 8 errors or inability to catch popups that might could be worrying Wade?
Tonight is Chris Sampson’s last chance to make the rotation and he’s facing a great Tigers lineup and has terrible infielders to help him out. And he’s not a strikeout pitcher.