Andy Green has more options than ever when constructing his daily lineup. The San Diego Padres have depth, but what is their optimal lineup heading into the start of the 2019 season?
For the first time since 2015, the Padres have what resembles a legitimate major league-caliber lineup. With just two weeks before Opening Day, the Padres roster is starting to come into focus. There are several different philosophies on how to make the proper batting lineup. Recently, we have seen pitchers bat eighth and a prominent power hitter bat leadoff or second.
Let’s take a look at what the Padres starting lineup should look like. This does not necessarily suggest the best defensive lineup, this is focusing strictly on the best hitting lineup.
Typically, this is a player who is a good athlete, a smart baserunner and someone who knows how to get on base. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your highest on-base percentage hitter since that also could include your best slugger. This should be someone that is difficult to strike out as it’s tough to start a game with strike three when your team is up.
Luis Urias is a name that comes to mind, with his plate discipline and bat control. However, is that the kind of pressure the Padres want to throw on the rookie? Eventually, yes, he would suit that batting slot with his career .397 on-base percentage in the minor leagues but first, let’s let the kid get his feet wet in a less high-pressure spot.
Ian Kinsler fits the bill perfectly. He was the 10th-hardest batter to strike out last season with a 12% strikeout rate. Even though his numbers have dipped in recent years, he still has a career .339 on-base percentage. He has also batted leadoff in exactly 1,110 games in his major league career, with a .268 average and .335 on-base percentage in those games.
Kinsler, although not the fastest guy on the team, stole 16 bases last season with a 0.8 BsR (Base Running) score according to FanGraphs, where anything above 0 is considered above average.
Leadoff is the slot Kinsler is most comfortable with as he led off in 54 games last season, the most in any spot in the order and that also reflects during his entire career. For most of the spring, Kinsler has indeed been the leadoff hitter.
Batting First: Ian Kinsler
Ideally, your four best hitters should be batting in the top four spots, to optimize the number of at-bats. Among the three remaining best hitters, the number two spot will go to the one with not as much pure power as the other two but perhaps better contact numbers. It used to be the spot where a speedy athlete who wasn’t as good a hitter as the leadoff guy but those days are gone.
It seems as if the second spot is the new “three-hole.”
Eric Hosmer hit second much of his first season in San Diego and given the lineup now will include some hitters with more power than he, it’s likely he will stay here. He gets some “protection” batting in front of the likes of Manny Machado, Wil Myers, and Franmil Reyes. He is still one of the better contact hitters in the lineup and one of the most experienced.
Batting Second: Eric Hosmer
Historically, the best overall hitter on the team would hit third. Some studies suggest that no longer should be the case. I researched the last two seasons between the third and fourth positions in the lineup to see which was more productive and still, despite recent suggestions from “sabermetricians,” the number three slot is still the strongest hitter.
MLB Teams 2017-2018
Clearly, in the last two seasons, the team has been getting more overall production from the number three slot in the order.
However, the fourth spot does have the edge in home runs.
This makes sense of the phrase “cleanup hitter” as this batter, more than other slots, will clean up the bases with home runs.
In conclusion, your best overall hitter should still be hitting third and there is no question who the Padres best hitter is. Plus, the third batter is guaranteed an at-bat in the first inning while the cleanup hitter is not.
Batting Third: Manny Machado
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