A little while ago, I ranted
about the new statistic that MLB debuted. It was relatively useless, but there was one interesting thing buried in the data.
The White Sox were the best team in baseball at driving in runs from scoring position. The problem being, the Sox were the worst team in the AL at getting a person into scoring position. It is with that knowledge that I reiterate the need for a #2 hitter.
Here's a breakdown of how each spot in the order fared this season for the White Sox.
#1 .279/.349/.414 .299/.349/.428
#2 .262/.303/.443 .293/.358/.480
#3 .292/.362/.529 .264/.331/.440
#4 .270/.376/.502 .247/.324/.482
#5 .278/.345/.503 .293/.356/.491
#6 .262/.328/.453 .296/.354/.498
#7 .252/.302/.418 .250/.326/.450
#8 .251/.312/.443 .258/.330/.431
#9 .261/.312/.400 .244/.289/.364
Two things jump out at me right away, 1) The #2 hitters only outperformed the #7 and #9 hiterrs. 2) Our pitchers did a nice job pitching to the opponents #3 & #4 hitters.
.303 is an unacceptable OBP for anyone who's not a defensive specialist, and I would expect them to bat near the bottom of the order. The #2 spot would have looked even worse had Aaron Rowand(.326/.360/.477 from #2) not taken 132AB's from that position.
The Major League average for the #2 spot this season was (.275/.329/.417). The Sox actually had a higher than average OPS from the 2 hole. The problem though was the supreme lack of OBP from that position.
The Sox had the 3rd lowest OBP in baseball from the #2 spot. I know there are some of you out there who think Christian Guzman would be a good replacement for Jose Valentin, now that they are both free agents, but he was one of the main reasons Minnesota was the worst in baseball from the #2 spot(.230/.291/.318). All signs point to Minnesota offering Vizquel a contract, and that's fine with me, cuz we have better option.
Though it would be funny if they sign Guzman again. Schadenfreude.
Just how bad was Guzman? In the lead-off spot, he was (.286/.294/.436). Holy crap is that bad. He took 2 walks in 133 AB's!!! Wilson Valdez could do that. From the #2 spot he was actually worse (.244/.279/.326). He drew a few walks, but still not enough, and he didn't hit, or hit for power. That .605 OPS is wretched.
The numbers don't get any better over a broader period of time. He's been just as bad for a while now. In the last three seasons, he was (.258/.283/.356) in the #2 spot, not nearly enough of an improvement to even warrant consideration. Away from the Metrodome over that time he's a pitiful (.259/.281/.351). So let's end all talk of even thinking about getting Guzman. Pssst, he's worse that Jose Valentin defensively too, despite his good season this year.
Who at #2?
As #2 hitter 2004 2002-2004
Placido Polanco .300/.345/.441 .295/.343/.435
Omar Vizquel .292/.355/.390 .275/.334/.384
Barry Larkin .291/.353/.430 .287/.345/.402
Edgar Renteria .276/.311/.417 .293/.340/.425
Christian Guzman .244/.279/.326 .258/.283/.356
Now don't get me wrong, I'd love to see Carlos Beltran in the 2-hole, but I don't need to go into great detail for you to know that he's good. I listed the "other" top free agents who are adept at playing the #2 spot.
As you can see, Polanco has been very consistent for the last three years. He is younger than Larkin and Vizquel, posted better numbers over that time, and by all accounts he is a solid defender and team player. By contrast, Larkin is perceived to be out there only for himself, and isn't in the same class defensively anymore. Renteria is probably too expensive for the White Sox budget, and Vizquel has been up and down the past few years. Guzman was just added for effect.
To me, the choice seems obvious.