Mike Aviles' campaign to be the Tribe's #2 hitter seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why is he so popular?
Mike Aviles has recently spent most of August batting second for the Indians, and this is a move that makes sense, because he has everything you might want from your #2 hitter. I think Aviles batting second is what gives the Tribe its best chance to win ballgames, and I think Terry Francona should continue batting Aviles there day after day. He is doing very, very well there.
Now, you could look at Aviles' .277 on-base percentage, and figure, "Hey, that's the seventh worst OBP in the American League among guys playing as frequently as Aviles. He seems like a horrible fit to bat in front of Michael Brantley, the team's best pure hitter, and Carlos Santana, the team's best power hitter; I want guys on base when they come up."
Sure, there's some logic to such a stance, but did you consider that Aviles is a semi-competent bunter, capable of moving a runner from 1st base to 2nd base more often than he screws it up, and thus hurting the team's run-expectancy less than someone would by just standing there and striking out?
No, you probably didn't consider that.
You might see Aviles' 3.6% walk rate and think, "My gosh, that is awful, only four regulars in the AL are worse at drawing walks. I mean, 3.6% wouldn't even rank him among the top 30 if he was only being compared to pitchers!"
Well, okay, but did you think about the fact that Aviles bats righty, and a lot of other guys on the Indians don't? You can't let left-handed batters be next to one another in the lineup, because then opposing managers will just put their top left-handed reliever in to face them. Aviles splits those guys up, and opposing managers can't just leave their LHP in, because Aviles has torched southpaws by slugging .349 against them including two home runs. Yeah, two of them, that's twice as many as one.
Besides, looking at Aviles' overall numbers from this season means including games when he was batting all over the place. When he was batting 9th, he probably wasn't as focused. Batting second though, he's going to be bringing his A-game. Look at his batting line when hitting second this season (and keep in mind that batting second is totally hard and stuff, which is going to skew the numbers): .163/.202/.225.
When you're getting production like that from the #2 spot in the order, why would you even consider changing it? Yeah, Aviles has the worst OBP of anyone in baseball when hitting second, and the worst OPS, but his batting average there is better than Stefan Romero's. Do you want to mess with the lineup and risk having someone worse than Stefan Romero?!
I didn't think so.
Mike Aviles has been awesome as a #2 hitter, and I look forward to at least another four of five years of him hitting there.
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