The Oakland Athletics should bat Ben Zobrist Second


The Oakland Athletics inconsistent offense has had many moving parts, as expected, but there is one change that I’d like to see that hasn’t been implemented yet.

Last year, I wrote about how Josh Donaldson should bat second for the Athletics, and unless you’ve been under a rock for the winter you know he plays in a different country now. Sadly, Bob Melvin decided not to take my advice last year, and had Donaldson bat third with Sam Fuld/Craig Gentry batting second.

However even though Donaldson is gone, I still am a firm believer in the theory that the team’s best hitter should bat second, giving him roughly 20 more at bats per season than he would get batting third. This season, the A’s best pure hitter is Ben Zobrist, who has batted third in every game so far.

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Although Zobrist doesn’t have the most power and isn’t the fastest player, he’s the most consistent and reliable presence at the plate. He’s had a .346 OBP or higher in each of the last six seasons, and has been a lock for at least 10 home runs and 10 steals. Billy Butler, Brett Lawrie and Josh Reddick will probably all hit more home runs than Zobrist this year, but Zobrist’s consistent ability to get on base makes him more valuable at the plate.

This season Melvin has been riding Mark Canha’s hot start and has been batting him second, behind Sam Fuld or Craig Gentry. However I think it’s safe to say that Canha will eventually come back to Earth (I like him so far, but he’s been in the league for less than a week), and when he starts slumping it will make sense to bump him further down in the order.

Also, when Coco Crisp comes back in (hopefully) about 4-6 weeks, Melvin may want to shift Sam Fuld/Craig Gentry back down to the number two spot in the order. Fuld has started off the year nicely, but he’s a career .239 hitter. I think Gentry will improve, but even an improved Gentry is still the 8th or 9th best hitter in the lineup.

Giving the worst hitter in the lineup the second most at bats doesn’t make much sense, and having speed at the top of the order is meaningless if those guys aren’t on base to utilize that speed. With Zobrist, he could help move the leadoff hitter into scoring position, he could drive him in, or he could start the rally himself.

With Zobrist batting second, Butler would shift into the third spot, with Ike Davis batting cleanup, Brett Lawrie batting fifth, and some combination of Reddick, Canha, Stephen Vogt and Marcus Semien finishing out the lineup. That lineup has plenty of run producers in spots 1 through 9, so keeping Zobrist’s bat in the three spot isn’t necessary from a run production standpoint, and there should be very few issues with lineup protection.

Zobrist has also started more games in the 2-spot than anywhere else in the batting order, so I’m assuming he’d be pretty comfortable there, especially at this stage in his career. He’s a career .270 hitter when batting second.

I’m not saying that I don’t believe in Canha or Fuld at all, but rather Zobrist is the most proven, consistent hitter in the lineup, and those extra few at bats should go to him.

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