What's a #2 hitter anyway?

What's a #2 hitter anyway?
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"I was a 2-hitter once.", "Ha! Good one, AJ." // Gary A. Vazquez, US PRESSWIRE

"The old-school book says to put a bat-control guy here.  Not a great
hitter, but someone who can move the lead-off hitter over for one of the
next two hitters to drive in.


The Book says the #2 hitter comes to bat in situations about as
important as the #3 hitter, but more often.  That means the #2 hitter
should be better than the #3 guy, and one of the best three hitters
overall.  And since he bats with the bases empty more often than the
hitters behind him, he should be a high-OBP player.  Doesn't sound like
someone who should be sacrificing, does it?"

-"Optimizing Your Lineup By The Book" by Sky Kalkman of Beyond the Box Score

"Well, if your lineup already features a leadoff man whose on-base percentage is barely adequate--say, a Juan Pierre-type--the emphasis for the #2 hole should also be getting on the basepaths so he can be driven in by the heart of the order, which I'm assuming is populated by a wave of slow-footed mashers.  Though I'll note that in 1999, the Seattle Mariners had Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez, and had Alex Rodriguez hit 42 HR out of the #2 hole.  That was pretty badass."

-"Chapter 376: The #2 hole" from James Fegan's Hideously Exhaustive Guide to Baseball by James Fegan

"What does it matter, so long as Alexei's leading off, YOU AIN'T GOT NO PROBLEMS!  Pass the psychotropic cookies, please."

-Not Phil Rogers

So clearly there's some disagreement here amongst these mostly fake quotes about what makes a #2 hitter, but the fundamental problem of the White Sox roster is that they lack the personnel for either definition.  Their bunting execution is less than reliable, and all of the high OBP guys in the lineup double as core power hitters.

The #2 slot was tailor-made for Gordon Beckham and continues to be his for the taking, but his high OBP-potential is muted when he's hitting under .250.  If the OPS over 1.000 to start the month of May is for real, then it shouldn't be too long before this spot is occupied by anyone but Commissioner Gordon.

The concern results from what Ozzie is likely to do in his stead.  He commented to the Sun-Times Daryl Van Schouwen that Morel was an ideal #2 hitter if he were to ever get his average up.

"The only one we have here, he handles the bat well, is Morel. ­Morel can swing the bat, put the ball in play."

This, is certainly old-school (read: not statistically inclined).  Beyond the fact that he hasn't drawn a walk even once this season, Morel posted increasingly poor walk rates as he advanced through the minors.  Even at his highest highs, Brent will get on base at a merely average rate and his involvement in the #2 hitter discussion is all of the issues with Ozzie's ideas on run production in a nutshell.  Playing for one run, not valuing outs, not putting trust in his power hitters, etc, etc.  Firing him would eradicate these traits, but probably result in the team bringing in some guy who has his own set of outmoded ideas.

All this opining is the product of the fact that the #2 slot's current resident, Alexei Ramirez, registers as just so a-typical for the position.  His traditonally free-swinging ways keep him out of the discussion of a high-OBP option, is not a base-stealer, and is still the only player to bunt into a triple-play this season.

Yet, his occupation of the spot--albeit, clearly as a stopgap--indicates that Ozzie knows that what's important above all is that his #2 hitter actually be good.  Not being afforded the ability to play old favorites this year because Omar Vizquel isn't starting and A.J. is meandering into the twilight, the #2 spot might boil down to riding the hot hand between Beckham, Morel, Ramirez, and Rios.

Lacking a proper candidate for either Ozzie's tastes or to address the lack of on-base skills team-wide, operating under a criteria of "who's producing the most?" will do just fine for now.

Besides, it's not like any of this matters anyway.

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