Thursday, June 13, 2013

Best man hits second. It's coming. It's here.

During Monday's FSN telecast of the Cedar Rapids Kernels game -- aka the Byron Buxton Show -- the studio boys spent some time talking about batting order position in the context of Buxton, who has been used strictly in the leadoff slot this year. Is he a leadoff man in the future, or a No. 3 hitter?

Tom Kelly's response combined common sense (basically, we don't really know yet what form his talents are going to take) and the outdated ("You don't want to hit him second").

Well. I suppose TK can't really be expected to be keeping up with always-evolving managerial strategies, but I'm comfortable with making this assertion: In five years, it will be as much the norm for teams to slot their best hitter second as it is now for teams to reserve their best reliever for save situations. And it will make a lot more sense.

There's resistance to this change, but it's already taking place, with the Twins and elsewhere. (Jim Margalus of the South Side Sox blog did a nice job this week dissecting the Hawk Harrelson-Steve Stone ridicule of the Blue Jays for hitting Jose Bautista second.) Ron Gardenhire went away from hitting Joe Mauer second for a couple of series, then switched back, presumably because he discovered that, yep, he was losing games while Brian Dozier got more at-bats than Mauer.

I don't know today who will be the Twins' best hitter five years from now. It might be Buxton. It might be Miguel Sano. Possibly it will be Oswaldo Arcia; it might even be a 35-year-old Mauer, although that seems unlikely given expected decline with age and the sheer talent coming up.

But I guarantee you: The expectation by then will be that the best hitter hits second.

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