Does speed matter when it comes to hitting high in the batting order?

In last night’s Cards-Cubs game, the number two hitter in the lineup came up with the bases loaded and two out. That hitter was Yadier Molina. Now, Yadi, as he’s affectionately known, is not known for his speed (an understatement, to say the least) He’s also one of the hottest hitters in the lineup. Manager Mike Matheny, in an effort to jump start the offense, put Yadi in the 2 hole last night. While admittedly he was 0 for 4 before this at bat, he delivered a 2 run single which lead to the Cardinals winning the game.

All of this leads to the question: Do you need speedy guys in the 2 hole? Heck, do you need average runners in the 2 hole? Isn’t a semi-clogged base better than an empty base?

Sabremetricians have stated recently that the 1st, 2nd, and 4th spots in the lineup are the most valuable. It makes sense, then, that Yadi, one of the Cardinals best hitters of late, would hit in one of those spots.

There’s 2 problems though, that eliminate 2 of those spots.

Yadi, for all of his hitting skills these past few years, is not a slugger. He did hit 22 homeruns in 2012, but before that his career high was 14, and last year he hit 12, so those 22 might be an anomaly. He did hit 44 doubles last year though, leading to a respectable .477 slugging percentage. Still, that’s not very high for a number 4 hitter.

As for the number one hole…He’s, as noted above, pretty slow. So he would clog the bases. Plus his OBP, while better than average at .361 last year, isn’t high enough to override the slow speed, at least for the number one spot in the order. While the Cardinals current leadoff hitter, Matt Carpenter, is just an average runner himself, he got on base last year at a .392 clip.

So that leaves the 2-hole. Yadi hit .319 last year with that .477 slugging percentage, so he’d obviously be able to move Carpenter along the bases while getting on himself at a decent clip with a .364 OBP average over the past 3 years, and the number 2 hitter doesn’t necessarily need as much speed as the number one hitter. Plus, it goes back to one of the overlying questions: Isn’t a semi-clogged base better than an empty base? I’d say yes. Hitting there, he can move Carpenter along, and be a baserunner for the sluggers following him, in this case, Matt Holliday and Matt Adams.

And last night, hitting Yadi in the 2-hole worked when it mattered, giving the Cardinals the win. It may not work every time, but I’d say last night proved that he should be given the chance to see if it would work over the long haul.

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