Nationals manager Jim Riggleman announced yesterday that he would be hitting Jayson Werth in the two-hole of the Nationals lineup. It was little bit surprising, only because the teams' best hitters (and highest paid players) usually hit a little bit lower in the lineup, where the greatest rbi opportunities are.
But if you let the initial surprise wash away, the decision to hit Werth that high makes sense for a lot of reasons. We'll run them down after the jump.
1. It's not like they have anyone else to hit there: If the Nationals had a high on base percentage guy who could fill that rolse, I'm sure they would feel comfortable moving Werth down in the order. But he doesn't exist. Danny Espinosa might prove to be that down the road, but he isn't ready for that responsibility yet. Even though he might be thought of as a middle of the order bat, simply put, he is the best player on the Nationals for the job.
2. People will be forced to pitch to him: With Ryan Zimmerman hitting behind him, teams won't be able to pitch around Werth. He will get way more pitches to hit than he would if he was hitting lower in the order.
3. Zimmerman gets a new best friend: On the flip side of that last point, Zimmerman will get a lot more opportunities to bat with someone on base. Expect to see his rbi numbers go up considerably now that his HR's won't just by solo jobs.
4. More at-bats in general: From The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore.
Now, the real point of Sheinin’s research. Over a full season, Werth would receive 25 or 30 more plate appearances hitting second as opposed to say, fourth. That works out to about one per week.
In a close game, you want your best players to hit as often as possible. With Werth hitting second, he has a better chance to do that.
5. Takes some of the pressure off him: Jayson Werth is a good player, but he isn't the rbi machine his contract might suggest. The second spot in the order fits Werth's play more than a cleanup role, and this should allow him to thrive. It just took some guts from Riggleman to make it happen.
So it might have been a little surprising to see that Werth will hit second. But if you think about it, it should be a good thing for the Nationals.