When Second is the Best
Most of the time in sports teams, players, fans, and everyone else that is connected with an organization wants nothing more than to be first. Second is never the best. After all second is really nothing more than the first loser, right?
Well that is true most of the time but not when it comes to the Orioles line-up and when we are talking about where to put Adam Jones At the beginning of spring training this season Adam Jones walked up to his manager and asked that he be allowed to bat second. Trembley responded by giving his budding star centerfielder a list of challenges that he must first overcome. Then, if that was accomplished, he would supplant Markakis as the number two-hitter and move Markakis to the number three slot.
Well luckily for the Orioles, Jones has responded to Trembley’s challenges with flying colors. He has become a much more patient and disciplined hitter. Not only is he taking pitches giving Roberts time to steal but he also is taking pitcher’s pitches: pitches that even if he made contact would result in outs more often then not. His eye for the strike zone has really developed and matured since last season. He also seems much more confident hitting with two strikes.
Not only has Jones become more patient he has also been using the whole field. He is waiting back on the ball and is driving it to right center and right field. This is important for a number two hitter because it allows your lead off man to move from first to third. Jones has the power to drive the ball out of the ball park to any field and the fact that he is willing to wait for his pitch and stay behind it and drive to all fields increases his plate coverage as well as prevents him from getting fooled by the breaking pitch. The key in baseball is to be comfortable enough that you are able to give yourself as much time as possible to figure out what type of pitch is being thrown and what location it is heading.
Clearly we have established that Jones has responded to Trembley’s challenges early in the season. But there were some skeptical folks out there that felt that Markakis belonged in the second spot in the order. After all, he hit great there last year. I personally like Markakis better as the number three hitter and I think the benefits he gets from the number two spot will be his in the number three slot as well, as long as Jones continues to play well. The reason is simple. Whenever you have a Roberts on base in front of you, you will get more fastballs to hit because of the fear that he may steal. That played a role in why Markakis hit better in the second spot last year. But by putting Jones in front of Markakis you will make life better for all.
Roberts will see more pitches to hit because pitchers will not want to walk him to get to Jones, as long as he keeps driving the ball and remaining patient at the plate. As Roberts gets more fastballs he will get more hits. Consequently it will bring Jones to the plate with Roberts on base, a threat to steal. So Jones will see more fastballs, especially with Markakis behind him because people will not want to face Markakis with two on base. He is too good of a hitter. The wild card this season is Jones’s speed. Because he is just as fast as Roberts, he too is a threat to steal. So now if he gets on base you are in the same position with Markakis in the three-hole as you were with him in the two last year. He is a patient and disciplined hitter and will wait for his pitch to drive. This will give Jones time to steal and the threat of the steal will force pitchers to continue to pitch fastballs to Markakis.
The top of the Orioles line-up sets up really well. If Huff can hit like he did last year the top four spots for the Orioles will be as good as any in the league. And remember help is on the way as Matt Weiters is preparing to begin his big league career some time in mid to late May or early June. Just image what this line-up could be if he can step in to the five-hole and deliver as he is expected to do.
Clearly second can be the best!!!