Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
2014 was a relative success! Winning the division while finishing 24 games over .500 is always a good thing, despite the widely reported clubhouse chemistry issues, they won and won and won. Which is why it was so shocking when the best pitcher on the planet imploded in the playoffs, which is why it was so frustrating seeing the offense go in and out of effectiveness during the Cardinals series, which is why it was so upsetting seeing borderline fly balls always go against the defense throughout the postseason.
So new management was brought in to change things. And they did just that take a look at the starting lineup going into game 1 of the NLDS:
Gordon 2b – Puig CF – Gonzalez 1b -Kemp RF – Ramirez SS – Crawford LF – Uribe 3b Ellis C
Fast forward to today and Gordon is gone, Kemp went south to San Diego, Hanley was never coming back, Ellis has been displaced with Yasmani Grandal -even though I expect AJ to catch at least 70 games-, and Puig probably isn’t going to play CF on a regular basis in 2015 unless there’s an emergency.
That’s 4 completely new starters, and the starting Center Fielder is going to be playing a different position.
If that isn’t roster turnover, I don’t know what is.
But despite the change on the current roster, one thing has to remain the same in order to help keep the Dodgers lineup in optimal shape, and that’s keeping Yasiel Puig in the #2 hole.
It’s pretty obvious that this wont be the case. Second Baseman Howie Kendrick owns a 79.7% contact rate and has posted batting averages above .275 in every season in his consistent career. Judging by Don Mattingly‘s history with second baseman batting second, it’s really difficult to see a situation where Kendrick isn’t hitting 2nd and moving Jimmy Rollins 1st to 3rd, bunting, or manufacturing runs come April.
If you’re unfamiliar with the findings, the old school idea that the second hitter should be able to slap singles the other way, or bunt the leadoff hitter into scoring position, setting up the #3 hitter or cleanup guy to drive in the batters has been challenged in recent years. First by sabermetricians who have found that the 2 spot should house arguably your best hitter (or at least one of the top 3 hitters in the lineup) and this past season managers have seemed to embrace the idea of the second hitter being one of the best hitters in the lineup, not some gritty gamer type sporting a .290 OBP. Last season, talents like Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Jonathan Lucroy, Brian Dozier, Ben Zobrist, and Yasiel Puig occupied their respective teams’ 2 hole. These players have something in common, they are all excellent hitters and players who can drive the ball with authority AND get on base.
The 2 hole hitter comes up to bat with nobody on more often than the hitters behind him, so why you would bat a slap hitter here? That spot should be reserved for a high OBP, high slugging guy and that basically describes Yasiel Puig. Despite a midseason slump in 2014 that saw articles written about his demise, Puig still compiled a .863 OPS which was 13th in all of baseball. Not to mention that he upped his walk rate to 10.5% and a .185 isolated power figure from the previous season. The gaudy OPS figure came in Dodger stadium, from a 23 year old.
He hits for average (.305 career AVG), he owns a .386 on base percentage, that ranks 8th in all of baseball since 2013, and he hits for power with a .502 slugging % that ranks 12th in all of baseball since 2013 (above Anthony Rizzo, Buster Posey, Robinson Cano, and Victor Martinez to name a few). Yasiel pretty much changed his entire approach over the course of a single offseason and upped his walk rate 2.2%. By pretty much any measurement, Puig is one of the top hitters in the entire game and will be 24 years old all throughout the 2015 season.
And hey, if you’re going to roll with Jimmy Rollins, he of the .319 OBP since 2012 as Stacie believes will happen then there has to be a very strong hitter right behind him. Kendrick is solid, but he pales in comparison to the best young 5 tool player the Dodgers have had in at least 2 decades.
So if left up to me to create a lineup *within reason*, i’d roll with Rollins – Puig – Gonzalez – Grandal – Kendrick – Crawford – Uribe – Pederson. But Puig will likely be batting 3rd with nobody on, 2 outs in the bottom of the first inning come opening day.