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The Cleanup Hitter Of Number Two Hitters

Posted By Howard Megdal On April 1, 2011 @ 10:52 am In Line-up | Comments Disabled

Happy Opening Day, everyone! We are about seven hours to first pitch, and much of the discussion about today’s Mets centers around the decision by Terry Collins to start Willie Harris in left field, batting second.

Collins cited Harris’ numbers against Josh Johnson, the Florida pitcher, and I certainly agree with the criticism that 22 at-bats isn’t worth enough to plan a lineup. But it also doesn’t seem like there’s enough of a difference between Harris and Lucas Duda, offense and defense combined, to mind seeing Harris in there, especially with Duda slated to play the next two games.

As for batting him second, I am nominally in favor of batting a team’s best hitters first. I say nominally because the difference between a team’s optimal lineup and, say, batting Mike Pelfrey cleanup comes to a few runs a season. So it is hard to care about that nearly as much as seeing the Mets use their best players in that lineup. Harris, instead of a useless hitter, is just fine by me.

Why do I use the term useless hitter? Check out how Harris stacks up against the other recent number two hitters the Mets have trotted out on Opening Day. The answer may surprise you. Here’s how I’d make out the lineup of the team’s last nine number two hitters.

1. Luis Castillo 2008

2. Paul Lo Duca 2006

3. Daniel Murphy 2009

4. Willie Harris 2011

5. Paul Lo Duca 2007

6. Roberto Alomar 2003

7. Kazuo Matsui 2005

8. Luis Castillo 2010

9. Ricky Gutierrez 2004

Needless to say, that is not a strong lineup, no matter how you order it. Harris, deployed properly, will be just fine in some starts against righties.

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