Last season, we decided to honor an oft-overlooked batter in baseball’s batting lineups — the two-hole. Lead-off hitters and power hitters are well-known, but the person batting second is just as important, if not more so, than other batters. He is the link between the typically speedy, contact-hitting lead-off hitter and the big muscles batting third, fourth and fifth. The number-two guy sets the table; moving over runners when he needs to and getting on base to help pad the RBI numbers for the power guys.
While that article last season did not flood our site with hits, we do see regular traffic and interest in the top batters in the two-hole. So we decided to go ahead and examine the same type of hitters over the 2010 season.
For full disclosure, we only examined one batter from each of the 30 MLB teams. To choose that player, we chose the player who batted second in a plurality of his team’s games. So, while Shin-soo Choo had a better batting average while in the two-hole, Asdrubal Cabrera batted second in more games. Additionally, we did not look at some stats such as stolen bases, total base, or sabermetric measures such as isolated power.
Now, before we list the top five from each League, here is a look at the top players based on statistics.
American League (players)
- Batting Average: Nick Markakis, Baltimore (.316)
- Doubles: Dustin Pedroia, Boston (12.45 at bats per double)
- Triples:Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay (58.29 at bats per triple)
- Home Runs: Nick Swisher, New York Yankees (19.7 at bats per HR)
- RBIs: Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay (7.03 at bats per RBI)
- Runs Created: Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay (6.61 per 27 outs)
- On-Base Percentage: Daric Barton, Oakland (.402)
- Strike Outs: Jason Kendall, Kansas City (9.54 at bats per Ks)
- Walks: Daric Barton, Oakland (1.16 walks per strikeout)
National League (players)
- Batting Average: Kelly Johnson, Arizona (.343)
- Doubles: Angel Pagan, New York Mets (12.82 at bats per double)
- Triples: Kelly Johnson, Arizona (33.2 at bats per triple)
- Home Runs: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (13.92 at bats per HR)
- RBIs: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (5.06 at bats per RBI)
- Runs Created: Kelly Johnson, Arizona (8.52 per 27 outs)
- On-Base Percentage: Kelly Johnson, Arizona (.409)
- Strike Outs: Jeff Keppinger, Houston (14.26 at bats per Ks)
- Walks: Jeff Keppinger, Houston (1.37 walks per strikeout)
American League (teams)
- Batting Average: Texas Rangers (.287)
- Doubles: Los Angeles Angels (47)
- Triples: Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays (8)
- Home Runs: Toronto Blue Jays (30)
- RBIs: Texas Rangers (99)
- Runs Created: Oakland Athletics (6.16 per 27 outs)
- On-Base Percentage: Oakland Athletics (.396)
- Strike Outs: Kansas City Royals (82)
- Walks: Oakland Athletics (115)
National League (teams)
- Batting Average: Florida Marlins (.302)
- Doubles: Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers (44)
- Triples: Colorado Rockies (9)
- Home Runs: Milwaukee Brewers (19)
- RBIs: Milwaukee Brewers (83)
- Runs Created: Florida Marlins (6.09 per 27 outs)
- On-Base Percentage: Atlanta Braves (.373)
- Strike Outs: Houston Astros (71)
- Walks: Atlanta Braves (83)
And now, the top five number two hitters from 2010. This is not a definitive list and is solely based on our opinion related to numbers. Some stats (like home runs and RBIs) are normalized to games played for better comparison.
5. Nick Markakis, Baltimore. First in batting average, second in on-base percentage and runs created. He is top five in runs scored, doubles, home runs, RBIs, and pitches per plate appearance. Would rank first on our list had it not been for the fact that he grounds into a lot of double plays (2.8 percent of all at bats) and does not sacrifice much.
4. Johnny Damon, Detroit. Second in doubles, walks per plate appearance, and extra-base hits. Top five in runs scored, triples, on-base percentage, runs scored, walk/strikeout ratio, and pitches per plate appearance. Does a good job of staying out of the double play, but does not sacrifice much. Repeat from 2009.
3. Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay. Tops in triples, RBIs, and runs created. Second in batting average. Third in slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging, and extra base hits. Excellent speed to stay out of the double play. Does strike out a bit too much.
2. Dustin Pedroia, Boston. Tops in doubles and extra base hits. Second in runs scored, on-base plus slugging, walks per strikeout, and pitches faced. Third in batting average, on-base percentage, and runs created. Top five in homers, RBIs, slugging percentage, and walks per plate appearance. Does ground into the double play a bit much (2.2 percent of all at-bats), but will sacrifice a fly ball for the good of the team (six total in 2010). Interesting to see where in the lineup Boston plays Crawford and Pedroia. Dustin is also a repeat from 2009 (he was also second last year on our list).
1. Daric Barton, Oakland. Perhaps unknown amongst the casual fan (much like Maicer Izturis last season), but the A’s first baseman is our choice for the best number two hitter in 2010. A lot of it has to do with consistency, but also leading in what could be deemed “important” two-hole categories. Barton was number one in on-base percentage (and third in all of baseball; not just batting second), walks per plate appearance, walk/strikeout ratio, and pitches faced per plate appearance. Beyond batting second, he was also number one in walks drawn (110, 108 of which were drawn batting second). He was top five in doubles, triples, OPS, and runs created. He was also tied for fourth among all batters in sacrifice hits (12). Sacrifices and walks are important in moving runners and helping to pad the RBI numbers of the big boys, thus making Daric Barton an obvious choice for top AL number two hitter in 2010.
5. Angel Pagan, New York Mets. Tops in doubles and top five in triples, RBIs, batting average, OPS, and extra base hits. Did not draw many walks and his walk/strikeout ratio was poor (12th out of 16). Decent sacrifice numbers and okay at staying out of the double play.
4. Ian Desmond, Washington. Second in doubles and runs created. Third in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS. Top five in on-base percentage and extra base hits. Among all qualified NL batters, was second in sacrifice hits (9). But he was middle of the pack in terms of strikeout numbers and drew the second fewest walks per plate appearance.
3. Jason Heyward, Atlanta. Tops in walks per plate appearance and pitches per plate appearance (i.e. excellent plate discipline). Second in walks per strikeouts and on-base percentage. Third in runs created. Top five in home runs and OPS. Despite high number of walks, also struck out quite a bit (maybe not-so excellent plate discipline) and batting average was 11th in the National League. Also, not asked to sacrifice much (no fault of his own) and did hit into 13 double plays.
2. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers. Number one in runs scored, home runs, RBIs, and extra-base hits. Number two in slugging percentage, OPS, walks per plate appearance. Top five in triples, runs creates and pitches per plate appearance. Nine sacrifice flys (good), but 14 GIDPs (bad). Batting average was second worst in the NL (.251, tied with Dexter Fowler of Colorado).
1. Kelly Johnson, Arizona. Yes, Kelly Johnson was tied with Kemp with the first at-bats in the two-hole (42), but his normalized numbers speak volumes. First in batting average, triples, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, and runs created. He was second in home runs, pitches per plate appearance, and extra-base hits. Third in runs scored and RBIs. And fourth in walks per plate appearance. He did hit into a fairly high number of double plays (12 total) and did not sacrifice as much as someone like David Eckstein (three versus Eckstein’s 12 [tops among NL second hitters]). But the consistency is key. Additionally, Johnson batted .343 in the two-hole (tops among all qualifiers). When Johnson batted third for the Diamondbacks, his average was .265; when leading off the batting order he was .267. Johnson thrived in that second batter position and therefore is deserve of being the top two-hole hitter for the National League.
Here are the stats organized by teams. These are the total stats for each player and not the normalized stats used to determine the arbitrary rankings.