Your Padres’ No. 3 Hitter Is Not Your Padre’s No. 3 Hitter

One detail I neglected to mention yesterday is the fact that Orlando Hudson batted third in Saturday’s game against the Cubs. This seemed peculiar to me, but I gave it little thought until I later saw that Bud Black is planning to use Hudson in that spot during the regular season.

I think of a no. 3 hitter as having more power than Hudson. Someone like Adrian Gonzalez immediately leaps to mind. Of course, Gonzalez is a luxury that not every team can afford, in which case, you make do with what you’ve got.

I joked a while back that the Padres are a team full of no. 6 and no. 7 hitters. To the extent that I wasn’t really joking (Daniel at Friar Forecast has noticed the homogeneity as well), there’s a case to be made that as long as someone has to bat third, it might as well be Hudson… regardless of how peculiar such an arrangement seems.

Anyway, getting back to power in the no. 3 spot, here are some lines of interest from 2010:

          BA  OBP  SLG  ISO
Cin 3rd .329 .422 .591 .262
SD 3rd  .287 .371 .482 .195
MLB 3rd .281 .360 .460 .179
Hudson  .268 .338 .372 .104
Oak 3rd .249 .315 .337 .088

The Reds had the best (as ranked by OPS) no. 3 hitters in MLB last year and the A’s had the worst. Turns out, sticking Joey Votto in that spot every day is a tad more effective than deploying Kurt Suzuki and Ryan Sweeney there. Who knew?

The Padres, for their part, checked in at no. 9 out of 30 teams.

How important is getting great production out of your no. 3 hitter? The Rangers, who finished a tick better than the Padres in that split, reached the World Series… Ah, but the Royals, who finished a tick worse than the Padres, lost 95 games. The Giants and Phillies were at no. 16 and no. 17, respectively, just behind no. 14 Washington. This is anecdotal, but maybe the no. 3 spot in the lineup just isn’t that crucial.

Then there are the lineup optimizers, including tools offered by David Pinto and Troy Masters. Assuming these optimizers even work (see Jack Moore’s criticsm at FanGraphs), they are still only as good as their inputs. And despite the fact that projecting player performance has become a cottage industry, it is essentially glorified crystal ball reading.

Bottom line: When dealing with a tool of indeterminate accuracy that relies on imprecise inputs, it’s best to exercise extreme caution in reaching any conclusions. Have fun (as Ray has at The Friarhood), but don’t mistake the model for reality.

So. Games would be good. This theory stuff is getting old.

* * *

  • Bloops: The Hall of (Peak-Weighted) WAR (Baseball-Reference). Any list that celebrates Gene Tenace is okay in my book.
  • Cooperstown Confidential: Candidates for the Shrine of the Eternals (Hardball Times). Bruce Markusen points us to the Baseball Reliquary (at this writing, its web site features a “photo” of the San Diego Chicken diving into home plate while Eddie Gaedel is at bat) located in Monrovia, near Los Angeles.
  • When Character and Makeup Matter (FanGraphs). From Steve Slowinski’s article: “We’re all human and subject to the same social influences, so it makes sense to me that players would be more likely to exert more effort if they are in a supportive, tight-knit clubhouse. Whether that extra effort translates into a better result on the field is another question entirely, but if a GM wants to give their team every possible advantage, they’d be well served to encourage a supportive clubhouse atmosphere.”
  • What the End of the Selig Era Looks Like (Platoon Advantage). The article begins thusly: “I don’t like Bud Selig. You don’t like Bud Selig. None of us really likes Bud Selig.” The Common Man sounds bitter. He should just buy an MLB team; then he would see things differently.
  • Bell happy about preliminary negotiations (Padres.com). Closer Heath Bell wants a long-term deal and the Padres are entertaining the idea of accommodating him.
  • Stairs Cases (Baseball Prospectus). Ben Lindbergh examines former Padres pinch-hitter Matt Stairs, who now plays for the Washington Nationals.
  • Giants beat reporters are not impressed with Miguel Tejada (HardballTalk). Speaking of former Padres, Tejada was a great story down the stretch last year, but it’s hard to believe he can sustain that kind of production over a full season.
  • Film Shows Babe Ruth, at Leisure and Up Close (New York Times). So full of awesome… [h/t Baseball-Reference]
  • Jim Callis Chat: March 23 (Baseball America). Callis mentions Anthony Rizzo and Donavan Tate, noting that the latter along with Tim Beckham “might go down as two of the most expensive busts in draft history.” Hey, at least Matt Bush didn’t cost much. I don’t happen to share Callis’ opinion of Tate, but there it is. And yeah, no more ATVs.
  • Chat: Paul DePodesta (Baseball Prospectus). Friend of Ducksnorts DePodesta offers up several nuggets, including this one: “In my mind, Moneyball is about constantly questioning the efficacy of your belief system and trying to uncover value where it’s not readily apparent. I don’t think that mindset will ever be outdated in any line of work.” Man, I miss him.
  • Padres 2011 Potential Milestones (Gaslamp Ball). If Chase Headley hits .341 this year… I’ll be shocked and amazed? Sure, that’s a milestone.