The Sports Daily > Monkey with a Halo
Who should bat second for the Angels? It probably doesn’t matter

A major topic of pointless debate in the world of Angels fans is "who should bat second in the Angels lineup?"

Erick Aybar because speedy!

Alberto Callaspo because bat skills!

Howie Kendrick because MOAR FASTBALLZ!

Chris Iannetta because walks!

Josh Hamilton because I'm smarter than you!

Everyone has a good case for their guy, some of you more so than others, but I am here to tell you that your arguments are all invalid.

This isn't to say that batting order unto itself is not important.  In fact, there is pretty established analysis that the difference between an optimal batting order and a more traditional batting order is one or two wins over the course of a season.  That one win can be the difference between making the playoffs and missing the playoffs, but in the grand scheme of things, it really isn't anything worth losing sleep over.

Ideally, the optimal lineup features your best three hitters batting first, second and fourth.  So, if you subscribe to the research involved (and you should) that should lead the Angels to use a batting order that has Trout leading off (already done) and Pujols and Hamilton batting second and fourth one way or the other depending on what you think their production is going to be this season.  Technically, that makes the pro-Hamilton crowd the most correct here but it also just shifts the argument to another spot in the batting order, the three-hole, which many hold to be all-important even if The Book says it really isn't as it dictates that your next two best batters should hit fifth then third.  Using their logic, that means those two slots would be filled in by Kendrick, Trumbo or Iannetta.  All in all, the Angels lineup should appear close to this:


That's an intriguing arrangement for some but I also imagine some of you are mortified at the thought of Iannetta batting third.  Well, don't get too excited or too worried because this lineup is but a pipedream.  Why you ask?  Because, as the spoiler of a meme pic in the top part of this article foretells, Mike Scioscia is the man responsible for filling in the lineup card.

The first requirement for knowing to use an optimal lineup is being aware of the research behind it.  While Jerry Dipoto seems to be well-read in the sabermetric field, Mike Scioscia is and always will be the guy who jokes that he doesn't know the difference between PECOTA and chicken piccata.  Dipoto can wield influence over Scioscia in many areas, but I'm fairly certain that Sosh isn't about to let Jerry start filling out the lineup card.

Scioscia is no troglodyte, but he is also a manager we know to be fairly set in his ways and his ways regarding the batting order are decidedly "old school" and heavily centered around the nebulous concept of "situational hitting."  That's why most of the speculation over who will bat second centers around Erick Aybar.  He's the most old school solution to this problem.  He checks off just about every box in the more traditional checklist of two-hole hitter attributes.  Bat skills (whatever those are), check.  Speed, check.  Lack of strikeout, check.  Sacrifice bunting, double check.  But in reality, Aybar is one of the least qualified hitters because he generally has a below average OBP and has very little power.  If Scioscia were even a little bit of a progressive thinker on this topic, Aybar wouldn't have spent over 46% of his career plate appearances batting first or second in the order.

There's another little wrinkle here too that makes this entire discussion even more irrelevant than it already is and that is Scioscia's complete and total inability to pick a batting order and stick with it.  He's always tinkered with his batting order, but last season, it was almost cartoonish how much Scioscia shook up order.  In fact, saying he shook up the lineup implies that it was ever static, which it really wasn't since Mike used 121 different lineups in 2012 and never used the same look more than five times.  His changes were so frequent that he didn't use the same line-up in consecutive days until May 16th.  In other words, it doesn't matter who bats second, because based on Scioscia's history, several guys are going to get a shot at it until someone catches fire in the slot a la Torii Hunter last season.  Even then, other guys will still rotate in because that's just Scioscia's will.

Keep speculating about who would fit in the role best for whatever philosophical reason you want, just know that Scioscia doesn't care.  He is going to do whatever suits his whims and hunches.  Those decisions might be sub-optimal, so complain about them until your blue in the face, just also know that the difference between optimal and sub-optimal is almost inconsequential.  In summary, if worrying and complaining about something that is completely outside your control and ultimately makes very little difference in the long run, then please, continue this discussion.  Otherwise, let's all just shut up about it and move on to more important debates like who should get the final bench and bullpen spots on the roster even though those players will probably just get sent down and replaced after a month of barely playing.  We tackle the important stuff here!