Are Cano, A-Rod and Teixeira the Most Overrated 'Heart of the Order' in MLB?
The Nos. 3-4-5 spots in the batting order are expected to be a baseball team's primary source of run production. The middle of the lineup is typically where a club's best hitters do their work. Get some runners on base, and the run producers will drive them in.
However, when those Nos. 3-4-5 hitters struggle to drive runners in from scoring position (second and third base), a team is usually going to have trouble scoring runs.
Look at the New York Yankees, for example. There may be no more celebrated "heart of the order" in baseball than the trio of Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. Those batters are certainly three of the highest-paid players in the sport. Yet they haven't produced anywhere close to expectations this season.
Which run producers have been nearly as disappointing as the Yankees' heart of the order? Here are five lineups whose lack of production in the middle make them look like donuts.
New York Yankees: Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira
Individually, the New York Yankees' vaunted trio of Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are hitting pretty well.
Cano's .840 OPS is third among the Yankees regulars to go with his eight homers and 24 RBI. Rodriguez has nine home runs and 22 RBI, with an on-base percentage of .372, behind only Derek Jeter among Yankees hitters with 150 or more at-bats. And Mark Teixeira is second on the team with 33 RBI, along with his nine homers.
But when it comes to batting with runners in scoring position, the Yankees' run producers have hardly fulfilled that role. The three have combined to hit .177 (28-for-58) in such situations, as pointed out by ESPN's Scott Shapiro on Twitter. That's the worst average with RISP in the majors.
Cano is actually the worst culprit of the three, batting 7-for-50 (.140) with runners in scoring position. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has shuffled each hitter between the Nos. 3-4-5 spots in his lineup with limited success.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Jason Kubel, Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Montero
A big reason the D-Backs have played below those expectations is because they're 10th in the National League in runs scored. Arizona has been outscored by 19 runs, the fourth-worst run differential in the league.
As you might expect, the middle of the D-Backs' batting order has played a large role in their disappointing offensive performance. Arizona's No. 3-4-5 hitters are hitting a combined .264 with runners in scoring position.
Miguel Montero is performing well in run-scoring situations, so it seems unfair to lump him in with the soft middle of the D-Backs lineup. He's batting 14-for-42 (.333) with RISP.
But Jason Kubel and Paul Goldschmidt bring down the collective average in a big way. Kubel is 12-for-47 (.255), while Goldschmidt is batting 11-for-51 (.216) with runners on second and third base.
Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth
The Washington Nationals have had difficultly scoring runs all season long, yet share first place in the NL East on the strength of their outstanding pitching.
Putting some more runs on the board would help, of course. Only three other teams have scored fewer runs in the NL than the Nats. They also have the third-fewest hits in the league.
Up until recently, Adam LaRoche has been a one-man offense for the Nationals. He hasn't hit badly with runners in scoring position, batting .264 (14-for-53) in the cleanup spot. But the hitters that sandwich him in the Nats' heart of the order have had a terrible time driving runners in.
Ryan Zimmerman is really scuffling at the plate right now. But his struggles are magnified with runners on second and third. In those situations, he's 7-for-32 (.219). Jayson Werth was actually worse from the No. 5 spot before he broke his wrist, batting 5-for-26 (.192). Xavier Nady was hardly a replacement, going 2-for-26 in Werth's absence.
The Nats have big hopes that the return of Michael Morse will bring those RISP numbers up significantly.
Atlanta Braves: Brian McCann, Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman
The Atlanta Braves have scored the third-most runs in the National League, which is a significant turnaround from last season when their offense was a big reason they fell just short of the playoffs.
However, despite that production, the Braves aren't getting much from the heart of their batting order. Brian McCann, Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman have combined to hit .223 (33-for-148) with runners in scoring position. That performance has surely contributed to Atlanta's recent slump that dropped it to fourth place in the NL East.
McCann has struggled all season long, so it shouldn't be a surprise he hasn't come through with runners on second and third. The Braves catcher is batting .196 (9-for-46) in such situations.
Behind him in the cleanup spot, Dan Uggla has fared better, batting a solid .260 (13-for-50). But Freddie Freeman brings down the average from the No. 5 spot, hitting .212 (11-for-52).
It's a good thing for the Braves that Michael Bourn and Martin Prado have been so productive at the top of the lineup.
Miami Marlins: Hanley Ramirez, Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison
Earlier this season, the Miami Marlins were one of the most surprising disappointments in baseball due in large part to their troubles with scoring runs.
That has turned around somewhat with Giancarlo Stanton having an explosive May that earned him Player of the Month honors in the NL. But manager Ozzie Guillen wants to find someone who can bat behind Stanton in the Marlins lineup.
Guillen might want to try someone who's hitting better with runners in scoring position, because Logan Morrison hasn't done well in those situations. Morrison is batting .146 (6-for-41) with runners on second and third. The Marlins obviously need better from the No. 5 spot in their lineup.
Batting in front of Stanton in the No. 3 spot, Hanley Ramirez is 13-for-65 (.200) in run-scoring situations. That's helped to handcuff Stanton, who's batting 14-for-47 (.298) from the cleanup spot.
Guillen doesn't want to move Omar Infante out of the No. 2 hole in the Marlins lineup to bat behind Stanton. But that might not help anyway. Infante is batting .205 (8-for-39) with runners in scoring position.
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