Grant Paulsen, of 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Grant and Danny Show, and one of the louder voices of the “Move Anthony Rendon to the 2-Spot” movement, made the case for Dusty Baker batting Rendon second instead of sixth in a recent post on his new site:
“It’s simple math. It’s been estimated that each spot in a batting order gets 30 or-so more at-bats than the spot behind it over the course of a season. A leadoff batter is going to get the most chances to get on base. Then a second hitter. Then the third hitter and so on. If you accept that math, which you should because it’s fact, how can you possibly advocate for hitting a .225 hitter who doesn’t get on base more often than a .320 hitter who does?
“In 2009, two-hole hitters got 65 more at-bats than six-hitters. Can you imagine 65 more chances for Rendon to impact games? The same Rendon who is likely to finish in the top-five in MVP voting for the second time in his five years in the majors. He’s hitting about .320 while having already homered as many times as he did a year ago in 260 fewer at-bats. He’s tearing the cover off the ball and perhaps the most amazing thing about Rendon’s season is that he is walking more than he strikes out. He has 53 walks and 49 strike outs.”
Just to update those stats, after going 1 for 3 with a double and a walk last night, the Nationals’ third baseman has a .315/.422/.584 line with 23 doubles, 20 home runs, 57 walks, and 51 Ks in 91 games and 379 plate appearances this season, over which he’s been worth an NL-best 5.0 fWAR.
Rendon’s .422 OBP is the fourth-best in the NL, and his .420 wOBA is third-best, with his 158 wRC+ third-best as well.
Back in 2014, summing up work by Tom Tango, and his co-authors, in “The Book”, Neil Payne wrote at Fivethirtyeight.com that, “after examining how important each batting event (single, double, walk, etc.) is to each lineup slot — based on factors such as how many runners are likely to be on base and how many outs they’re likely to hit with — the data says a team ought to bat its three best hitters in the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 slots, with the most balanced hitter occupying the two-hole.”
It’s hard to argue against Rendon as the most balanced hitter in a lineup full of them, though Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy are pretty balanced too.
When Baker has talked about his lineup construction, especially when it comes to Rendon, he’s discussed his desire to have Rendon protect Murphy by batting sixth behind the runner-up for the 2016 NL MVP award.
He shared his thinking when asked about Rendon’s contributions to the lineup earlier this month.
“Anthony is our foundation man,” Baker said. “And he’s a clutch man. You need a base hit to right, you need a homer, you need an RBI, whatever that you need, Anthony is usually the guy that comes through. Especially hitting behind Murph is so very, very important, because you see a lot of times they don’t walk Murph to get to Anthony, which shows the amount of respect that he has throughout the league.”
Murphy too talked about having Rendon hitting behind him, saying he tries to get on to protect Rendon when he was asked about Rendon’s production and what was behind it during a hot streak for the third baseman in late May.
The secret to his success?
“Getting really good pitches to hit and not missing them. It’s really no more difficult than that,” Murphy said.
“Tony’s getting there on time right now, swinging the bat really and he’s getting rewarded for it.”
“He’s swinging the bat well right now,” Murphy continued. “I’d like to get on in front of him and try to protect him.”
Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo too addressed the issue when he was asked about Baker’s lineup construction when it comes to Rendon on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this morning.
“I think Dusty likes him protecting Murphy,” Rizzo said. “I think that’s the big reason, so Murphy gets pitches to hit. I think that’s the big reason for it. He likes Rendon in a run-producing position instead of a run-scoring position, and it makes sense both ways.
Dusty on lineup, reiterating his long-stated strategy: "You're gonna have a hole somewhere, and I don't want that hole behind Murphy."— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) July 26, 2017
“I think Rendon is more comfortable hitting there, which I think has something to do with it, and also I think there’s a better balance, a better flow in the lineup when Rendon hits down in the run-producing part of the lineup.”
Rendon is back in the “run-producing part” of the lineup again tonight. Which side of the argument are you on? Move Rendon? Let Baker do his thing? Convince Baker that moving Rendon to the two-spot should be his thing?