The Awful No. 2 Hitter (2012 Edition); Chipper to Retire

by Jason Epstein

Last May I linked to an excellent article from Eric Simon of Amazin’ Avenue, bemoaning the propensity of big league managers to bat inferior hitters in the two-hole.

Now Nationals manager Davey Johnson, an Earl Weaver protégé who brought an IBM PC-XT into the Mets clubhouse way back in 1984, comes across as a Neanderthal when discussing his decision to have middle infielders Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa bat at the top of the lineup.

From MASN’s Dan Kolko:

But Johnson isn’t concerned about those numbers for a couple reasons — he believes with time, the on-base percentage numbers from Desmond and Espinosa will rise, and he feels he needs a little bit more pop at the top of his order.

“It’s a luxury when you have (a) one and two that can drive in runs,” Johnson said. “A lot of times, a guy can get on, but he has a hard time driving somebody in. So I may sacrifice a little bit in on-base percentage, but during the course of the game, they’ll be in situations where you bunt a guy over and you’ve got a run producer there.

“So as much as I look at on-base percentage, I also look at the fact that they can produce runs.”

To be sure, projecting improved on-base percentage from Desmond and Espinosa is certainly worthy of discussion, particularly when you consider the latter’s acceptable minor league walk rate; the other reason is downright silly. If Davey really sees these two players as run producers and is not simply playing the role of club cheerleader, then at least one of the them should support sluggers/high on-base players like Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse, not enter the batter’s box after the pitcher finishes his plate appearance. My humble suggestion: hit Jayson Werth second and let Desmond bat sixth or seventh.

Meanwhile, Braves third baseman Chipper Jones announced that this season will be his last.

From USA Today’s Scott Boeck:

“I’m very comfortable with this decision,” Jones said at a news conference at Braves camp in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., “and I’m ready to stick to it.”

“Never in my mid-20s would I have given myself a snowball’s chance to be in camp and have a job at 40 years old,” Jones told The Associated Press. “But I like to think I’ve kept myself in pretty good shape over the years. The skills are still there to go out and get it done. I don’t know for how much longer, but we’re gonna ride it as long as we can.”

Since becoming an everyday player for Atlanta in 1995, Chipper has compiled first-ballot Hall of Fame stats: 454 home runs, .399 wOBA, more walks than strikeouts, and 87.5 fWAR.

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