Consider, if you will, the following scenario: it's the bottom of the ninth, and the 8, 9, and 1 spots are due up for the Rockies, who are down by a run. Number's 8 and 9 go down quietly; the closer is throwing bullets. The lead off hitter works a tough walk. The next guy to walk up to the plate is...DJ LeMahieu? Carlos Gonzalez stands on deck, bat safely on his shoulder.
Alright, thought experiment over. The majority of at-bats in the 2 hole went to the Rockies' 2nd basemen last year, and that probably wasn't ideal. DJ LeMahieu and Josh Rutledge got the most of the starts at number two, and they both put up below average batting lines. Traditionally, the number two hitter is supposed to handle the bat well, perhaps put down a bunt, hit behind the runner, have above average speed, etc. Like a lot of baseball traditions, from chewing tobacco to the Established Closer, it ain't smart.
Most baseball thinkers now postulate that you should put your best hitter second, not a "bat-handler" or whatever. The higher in the lineup you hit, the more at-bats you get in a year; about 18 more per spot in the lineup. It's just good policy to get your best hitters more at bats, and leave the out-makers lower in the order. Additionally, tradition stipulates that the best hitter bats third, but the 3 hole hitter faces the most two-out, nobody on scenarios than any other spot; in other words, it frequently wastes your best hitter's at-bats.
That's relevant today because Walt Weiss, via an interview with Troy Renck, said that he will likely bat Michael Cuddyer second in the Rockies lineup. Cuddyer isn't the best hitter on the team; that's either Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez. But he's certainly better than LeMahieu or Rutledge or whoever else has been on the second base carousel. While Cuddyer probably won't be repeating 2013, which was a career year for him, he should still be a plus with the bat. Considering that he's also a smart baserunner, if not a traditional stealing threat, then he should be a solid fit for the two hole.
Personally, I'd like to see Cargo in the second spot. He's the best power/speed combination on the team, he has no real platoon splits, and he's a game changer on the base paths. However, it doesn't concern me too much; barring any egregious errors, lineup construction doesn't lead to great swings in runs created. At most it's about a win or two. Still, those wins obviously matter.
Anyway, tentative lineup for Opening Day:
1. Charlie Blackmon/Corey Dickerson (against righties)/Drew Stubbs (against lefties)
2. Michael Cuddyer
3. Carlos Gonzalez
4. Troy Tulowitzki
5. Justin Morneau (against righties)/Wilin Rosario (against lefties)
6. Wilin Rosario (against righties)/whoever replaces Morneau (against lefties)
7. Nolan Arenado
WILL DEREK JETER'S REPLACEMENT IN 2015 BE TROY TULOWITZKI????? READ TROY RENCK'S TAKE! Or, alternatively, go down to the hardware store, buy a nail gun, and repeatedly staple yourself in the stomach.
Patrick Saunders has a nice profile of new acquisition Brett Anderson. It sounds like Anderson has something to prove, and is chomping at the bit to get going. He could very well be the most important piece for the Rockies in 2014.
Guys, pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. Baseball is approaching.