Friday, March 10, 2017

Where Should Andrew Benintendi Bat in the Order?

In this case, I think the joke answer is the correct answer.

Anywhere he wants.

I'm not sure there's a wrong place to put an immensely talented hitter. The hope is that he'll produce no matter which number is written next to his name.

But, is there a better place than another? Probably.

I happen to be a subscriber to the theory that a batting order should be top heavy. Your lead-off batter will get the most at-bats over the course of a season, so why wouldn't you put your best hitter there? Now, as with every statistic people try to use, there's some thinking that needs to be applied. If you're doing a line-up for, say, the 2013 Red Sox, David Ortiz might have been the best hitter. But, batting him lead-off to be followed by Mookie Betts has some obviouls flaws. I don't like the idea of Betts hitting a triple to the gap, but only reaching second base because Papi was clogging the way. So, it's probably best to use the "best hitter at the top" idea to only decide "top half" vs "bottom half" of the order. As long as Papi's somewhere in the top four or five, you're probably getting enough of his at-bats.

So, I'd say Benintendi should find a place in the upper half. That much is obvious. But, how about from there?

There's been some talk about batting 'Tendi third as a way to break up a string of four right-handed hitters in Pedroia, Betts, Bogaerts, and Ramirez. I agree that going right-left through the order isn't a bad idea. But, I wouldn't define the line-up just to do that. If you're looking at Bogaerts-Ortiz-Betts, sure. No reason not to stick Ortiz in there. But, I wouldn't want to see Bogaerts-Bradley-Betts just as a way to alternate the batter's boxes. But, I think Benintendi is a pretty reasonable candidate to slide in the middle there.

The drawback? Generally, the third hitter is your best hitter. Does anyone care that a rookie is being cast in that spot? Does the rookie? Will he pit too much pressure on himself to produce "like a 3-hitter"? All accounts are that he's a pretty mature guy, who should be immune to himself. But, it's easy to be cool and collected when you're not assumed to be the best hitter on a team destined for the World Series. It's easy to be fast and loose when you're playing with house money. A 22-year old making his ML debut out of necessity has no pressure. The starting opening day left fielder and #3 hitter has a bit more. So, how 'Tendi would handle the spot remains to be seen. As for his teammates? Assuming they even care, I'm not sure how much they should care. Betts would probably bat clean-up as the protection. Hanley would be protecting the MVP. Pedroia would bat leadoff. Really, only Xander would be taking anything resembling a "demotion" going from #3 to #2 in the order. He'll just have to be OK with that fact.

Because, all things being equal, the idea of throwing Benintendi in the middle of the righties is a fine idea. Do I think that going Pedroia-Bogaerts-Betts-Ramirez in a row would be a problem? No. They're good hitters. I can't imagine a tough righty pitcher just mowing them down. (Frankly, if a pitcher mows down those four, not sure Tendi has much of a better chance.) So, if Tendi proves to not be able to handle the "pressure" of the position, I'd have no problem swapping him with Bogaerts. But I'd start with him batting third.

What would you do?


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