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Carlos Gomez: Worst 2nd Hitter in NL?

Carlos Gomezphoto © 2011 Steve Paluch | more info (via: Wylio)
Carlos Gomez is hitting second again for the Brewers as they start a new series in Atlanta, looking to rebound from a weekend series loss to the Houston Astros. Gomez hitting second has been the source of many complaints lately, and it’s one of those things that Ron Roenicke keeps doing that gets a little more irritating every time it happens.

We all know that Gomez is a bad fit for the second spot in the order, no matter what you’re looking to get from that spot. He doesn’t get on base, he doesn’t move runners over, and he’s not a very good baserunner despite his speed. I wanted to find out just how bad he’s been lately.

So here’s what I did.

With the help of Baseball Reference’s 2011 team pages, I went through their batting orders looking for the guy every team in the National League used the most in the second spot of the order, only excluding a couple for reasons stated below. After I had the list of 2nd-Hitters in the NL, I went to those players’ FanGraphs pages and noted the wOBA for every player. I chose wOBA because it weighs all aspects of hitting according to their actual run value and the numbers are intuitive — they’re on the same scale as OBP, so league average is roughly .330.

The results, from highest to lowest:

Placido Polanco (PHI): .420
Brandon Phillips (CIN): .420
Colby Rasmus (STL): .382
Jonathan Herrera (COL): .380
Jason Heyward (ATL): .365
Darwin Barney (CHC): .352
Daniel Murphy (NYM): .343
Jose Tabata (PIT): .338
Jamey Carroll (LAD): .330
Freddy Sanchez (SFG): .314
Angel Sanchez (HOU): .310
Rick Ankiel (WAS): .287
Carlos Gomez (MIL): .277
Kelly Johnson (ARI): .267
Jason Bartlett (SDP): .259
Omar Infante (FLA): .258

Side notes:
Casey Blake (LAD) has a wOBA .428 in 14 games, but spent most of April on the disabled list. Nate McLouth has hit second one more time than Jason Heyward so far this year, but I listed Heyward since he’s hitting 2nd for the Braves tonight and likely going forward. McLouth’s wOBA so far this year is .313.

There’s going to be a small sample size alert attached to any numbers obtained through one month of the season, but as it turns out, Gomez isn’t the worst 2nd-Hitter in the NL after all. He’s just *one of* the worst, and far below average. The Brewers would be better off with someone like Jonathan Lucroy (.387 wOBA) or Corey Hart (once he gets back up to speed) hitting second.

Do not mistake this for wishing Gomez be removed from the lineup completely (although I do know that’s an opinion gaining steam in some other places). He’s at least provided a great deal of value defensively so far, already notching 8 defensive runs saved in 227.2 innings in the outfield and posting a UZR/150 of 30.2. As I’ve mentioned before, these numbers have zero predictive value going forward with such a small sample, but they are descriptive of what’s happened so far.

With Nyjer Morgan coming back, it seems likely that Gomez will see a dip in his playing time, and that’s probably a good thing. For as good as Gomez is defensively, Morgan isn’t too far behind, and isn’t a total black hole offensively provided his ABs against left-handed pitching are limited. A platoon wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.