#2 hitter for Brewers in ’08 should be Corey Hart

Continuing my series on the Brewers’ 2008 batting order, the second spot in the batting order should have someone that can capitalize whenever leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks gets on base–in other words, the Brewer with one of the highest OBP with runners on base. A caveat: the #2 hitter also needs some speed (sorry, Prince), if only to advance to second easily once the opposing outfield makes the throw to home to try and get Weeks.
I’m going to also assume that Ned Yost would generally prefer not to have a separate line up for left-handed pitchers, although I forecast that for the #3 and #4 spots, I’ll likely recommend just that thing.
Anyway, in determining whose should be the Brewers’ #2 hitter, let’s look at the top five Brewers’ from ’07 with men on base, again using OBP over BA and at least 30 AB’s:
1. Joe Dillon, .421 (Joe eeked in with 34 AB’s)
2. Prince Fielder, .417
3. Corey Hart, .408
4. Kevin Mench, .366
5. Ryan Braun, .359
First, I want to mention that I did check to see how Mike Cameron did, and he came in at a .352 mark. Joe Dillon’s sample size is rather small, plus he likely to get platooned with the left-handed hitting outfielders Tony Gwynn, Jr. and Gabe Gross. Fielder, as alluded to before, is a bit too portly to be the #2 hitter; Mench is no longer employed by the Brewers, leaving just Ryan Braun and Corey Hart as the only realistic candidates.
Both Hart and Braun can hit for power, as well as steal bases–in Hart’s 177 AB’s with runners on base, he had 59 hits and 63 RBI’s; in Braun’s 201 AB’s, he had 63 hits and 79 RBI’s; but Braun also fanned 52 times with runners on base, versus Hart’s 30, while Hart walked 18 times to Braun’s 12. Braun’s 16 HR’s bested Hart’s 6 dingers with men on base–but that supports the notion that Braun should be a bit further back in the order–in other words, let Hart get on base, and have Braun drive him in.
The tiebreaker then? Suppose Weeks leads off the game with a double. Would opposing pitchers be more likely to walk Hart to get to Braun, or Braun to get to Hart? I’d bet that Braun would see a lot more free passes–something that gets an extra base runner, but limits Braun’s ability to get the big hit with runners on base. Plus, Ned Yost has already come out and said he sees Braun as a #4 or #5 hitter, as he wants Braun to get some chances to steal some bases and to reduce the free passes given to Fielder. Having Braun bat second ahead of Hart would result in many more intentional walks to Braun than would be the case with Hart batting second and either Fielder or Braun batting third.
It’s close…but my choice for the #2 hitter in the Brewers’ line up is Corey Hart.