Why Mike Jacobs Shouldn’t Hit Cleanup
Besides the obvious, there is solid statistical evidence that Mike Jacobs should not be batting fourth for the Mets — or in anyone’s lineup, for that matter.
While it’s true I tend to eschew many baseball stats, the truth is, I do find stats to be valuable in evaluating a ballplayer. Further, sometimes one uncovers numbers that reveal or prove something about a player’s “makeup” or “character” — things that supposedly can’t be measured.
Such as these stats by Mike Jacobs:
The “#” refers to the spot in the lineup. PA = Plate Appearances, AB = At-Bats, OPS = On Base Pct. + Slugging Pct. and the rest you can probably figure out.
Are you seeing what I’m seeing?
Most statheads claim that a hitter hits the same no matter where he’s placed in the lineup. They lean on mountains and mountains of numbers from every MLBer to support that claim. Indeed, they’re right — GENERALLY SPEAKING, a batter will hit the same regardless of where he’s placed in the lineup.
But generalized stats do not necessarily apply to every single individual. Ballplayers are human, therefore unique, and therefore may react differently than the norm, depending on the situation. For example, based on the above stats, it could be surmised that Mike Jacobs either changes his approach when hitting cleanup, or simply feels uncomfortable batting fourth.
That’s not an outlandish theory, is it? Anyone who has played at least little league baseball knows that there is something attached to hitting fourth; it’s an anointment of sorts, and it comes with perceived responsibility. The “slugger” bats “cleanup” because he’s the guy who’s counted on to “clean up” the bases / drive in the runs. Maybe, just maybe, Mike Jacobs has this “thing” about hitting cleanup that keeps him from being the best he can be when penciled in to that spot.
My friend James Kannengieser of AmazinAvenue claims the “sample size” is insufficient to support my theory. I beg to differ, based on the following:
“4” refers to Jacobs hitting fourth. “AE” refers to Jacobs hitting “anywhere else” in the lineup, other than fourth. “C” refers to Jacobs’ career stats, regardless of his lineup position.
So the “sample size” of Jacobs hitting anywhere other than fourth is actually larger than his sample size in the cleanup spot — does that mean it’s more indicative of what kind of hitter he can be?
(Side note: I don’t think there is an argument regarding batters “protecting” Jacobs in the lineup, considering that he appears to hit better the lower he goes, and lesser hitters tend to hit lower in the order.)
Based on his career splits, I believe there is at least a strong theory worth arguing here — not that there should be ANY argument regarding Jacobs hitting fourth. I’m not sure why any manager would see Mike Jacobs as a cleanup hitter, considering his prodigious strikeout totals and below-average plate discipline — which remain fairly consistent regardless of his lineup position.
Does this mean that, when Murphy comes back, he will be batting cleanup? With Jerry’s rationale, you have to figure that if he can justify batting Jacobs cleanup, than Murphy should be a shoo-in. God forbid if Alex Cora has to play 1B at any time this year. He may be next on the depth chart to get time as the #4 hitter. Don’t scoff – I really do think Jerry is that crazy.
First, as I have said again and again, the 4th hitter is BY FAR the most important run producing position in the lineup. It sees the most at bats with runners on base (more than the #3) and thus is the one and ONLY place David Wright should hit.
Second, Jacobs is just proof that the Mets 1st baseman is their biggest power source. Yes Murphy would be batting cleanup if he were healthy. The Mets are trying to prove that the 1st base position is a power position on the team, just like they are ruining Mejia’s career to prove the minor league system is not barren (it’s not, btw, but only idiots think it is and idiots dictate the Mets decisions, also make them). Look obviously I’m being tongue and cheek but really why not think this way? It all falls in line.
898 plate appearances might seem like a lot, but you are only talking about 43% of his career PA’s.
Sample size is RELATIVE. If a guy has, say, ten seasons in the major leagues, 500 ab each year, and he hits 40 HR’s 1 year, and 10 HR’s each of the next 9, the 40 HR season does not reflect his true talent level, even if it was 500 at-bats, because you are talking about 5,000 plate appearances.
You can’t definitively say Jacobs does not hit as well in the cleanup spot as anywhere else, anymore than you can say 200 at-bats represents a guy’s production over a full season.
It’s an interesting point, and I concede it can be true, but there’s not sufficient info to say so. I agree Jacobs shouldn’t bat fourth, simply because he is not nearly as productive as Bay period.
How much more evidence is needed before one can start to build an argument? And will that argument be relevant by then, or will the player have retired by the time there’s enough data to evaluate? In which case, what’s the point, since one of the big reasons people crunch numbers is to help predict FUTURE performance?
I’m not being a smarty pants, I sincerely don’t understand sample size. Sometimes I feel like it is an excuse when numbers don’t fit a stathead’s hypothesis (not you, I mean others). If you can help me figure out stats, maybe I can explain Homer’s The Iliad to you LOL!
As for the sample size, you have piqued my interest so I will investigate and get back to you ASAP if you haven’t already had a satisfactory answer.