When the Colorado Rockies opened up spring training play in late-February, manager Bud Black had his lab coat, safety goggles, and test tubes ready to go. The mad-scientist wanted to see what would happen if MVP-candidate Nolan Arenado was slotted second in the lineup.
As our Jake Shapiro wrote a few weeks ago, this is a bigger deal than it sounds. Arenado had spent the majority of his career batting third or clean-up. In fact, the last time he hit second in the lineup was in 2015 when he had 22 at-bats there that season. On top of that, of his 3348 career at-bats, he has a total of 96 at-bats from the 2-hole.
As Shapiro noted, there are some pros for moving Arenado up in the order. With the addition of newly-acquired Daniel Murphy hitting third, Black could run left-right-left throughout his entire lineup card. Moving him up would also presumably get an extra 30+ plate appearances over the course of the season.
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However, as the Rockies have learned through the course of spring training, there is one huge con to this move: there are less opportunities for Arenado to drive in runs. As the lady (can’t forget about Jenny Cavnar) and gentlemen on the AT&T SportsNet broadcast stated Tuesday night, Nolan is an “RBI-machine” and is a different hitter when runners are on base.
By batting second, there is one less opportunity for a runner to get on base in front of Arenado and more pressure would be put on Charlie Blackmon to set the table.
The idea of taking RBI opportunities away from someone who has driven in an MLB leading 503 runs in the last 4 seasons is hard to wrap the mind around. This is likely the reason why Bud Black has recently started to pencil him back in his usual 3-spot on the lineup card this past week.
Could opposing pitchers see Nolan Arenado batting second this season? Possibly, but it is more probable that this was a spring training experiment that Bud Black concocted in the offseason that didn’t get the desired results once it was put to the test.