When you are looking at the number three batter in most lineups, invariably you are looking at the best hitter on a player's team.
Number three versus the clean-up batter in the lineup
There certainly have been times when the slugger in the number four slot was the man.
At least, that's what we grew up with fantasizing about.
I mean the number four guy in the line was the clean-up batter. He actually had a name because we pictured the first three guys getting on base and then the number four guy would clean up the bases with a big hit.
Isn't that why Lou Gehrig had so many grand slams?
Comparing number three and number four
Take a look at how the top 2013 team's number threes versus number four batters in the lineup have done.
|Detroit Tigers (DET)||606||.340||.431||.639||1.070||42||82||91||136|
|Pittsburgh Pirates (PIT)||575||.315||.395||.509||.904||19||62||86||75|
|Cincinnati Reds (CIN)||598||.314||.430||.504||.934||20||100||115||62|
|Kansas City Royals (KC)||565||.300||.366||.443||.809||16||52||72||77|
|San Francisco Giants (SF)||575||.296||.339||.458||.796||17||33||70||82|
|Colorado Rockies (COL)||584||.295||.363||.560||.923||32||56||148||83|
|Boston Red Sox (BOS)||605||.295||.370||.408||.778||8||63||66||71|
|New York Yankees (NYY)||563||.289||.361||.472||.832||23||53||89||83|
|New York Mets (NYM)||573||.288||.361||.472||.833||19||55||99||63|
|Cleveland Indians (CLE)||578||.288||.362||.475||.837||16||59||123||83|
|Colorado Rockies (COL)||570||.334||.391||.557||.948||26||48||104||106|
|Texas Rangers (TEX)||559||.328||.379||.544||.923||28||39||59||76|
|Los Angeles Dodgers (LAD)||560||.321||.382||.498||.880||16||47||103||78|
|St. Louis Cardinals (STL)||568||.320||.382||.482||.864||16||46||98||94|
|Boston Red Sox (BOS)||592||.313||.380||.574||.954||30||60||99||104|
|Washington Nationals (WSH)||552||.296||.377||.494||.871||22||62||114||83|
|Tampa Bay Rays (TB)||559||.295||.367||.497||.864||21||59||117||74|
|Baltimore Orioles (BAL)||555||.294||.328||.538||.866||32||23||111||107|
|San Francisco Giants (SF)||561||.278||.351||.451||.802||16||54||81||70|
|Atlanta Braves (ATL)||563||.278||.350||.460||.810||21||52||115||94|
Look at the variance in the number three slot
Baseball's number three batters are interesting lot.
|Miguel Cabrera (DET)||550||.358||.449||.684||14.5%||13.6%||42||75||128||50.4%||28.8%||3.69|
|Andrew McCutchen (PIT)||537||.318||.399||.509||14.7%||11.2%||17||60||71||46.2%||22.3%||3.77|
|Joey Votto (CIN)||585||.314||.432||.507||19.1%||17.1%||20||100||61||38.9%||16.7%||4.13|
|Robinson Cano (NYY)||355||.314||.389||.495||13.5%||11.0%||13||39||52||46.2%||28.7%||3.78|
|David Wright (NYM)||456||.308||.393||.514||16.2%||11.4%||16||52||53||45.1%||20.9%||3.78|
|Carlos Gonzalez (COL)||417||.299||.367||.591||26.9%||9.6%||25||40||67||48.2%||32.9%||3.89|
|Dustin Pedroia (BOS)||593||.299||.374||.415||11.0%||10.6%||8||63||71||42.4%||24.4%||4.12|
|Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)||501||.292||.394||.542||19.8%||14.2%||28||71||88||40.5%||20.4%||4.17|
|Jason Kipnis (CLE)||303||.283||.372||.445||21.1%||12.9%||7||39||44||39.1%||17.8%||4.31|
|Alex Rios (CWS)||460||.279||.329||.425||16.5%||6.7%||12||31||55||43.8%||24.7%||3.73|
|Adrian Gonzalez (LAD)||422||.277||.322||.446||14.7%||6.6%||15||28||60||51.5%||33.6%||3.66|
|Jason Castro (HOU)||323||.271||.341||.455||26.6%||9.3%||10||30||32||45.6%||27.4%||4.03|
|Nick Markakis (BAL)||383||.263||.326||.370||8.6%||8.4%||8||32||30||42.1%||24.5%||3.74|
|Matt Holliday (STL)||400||.263||.343||.455||15.3%||9.8%||15||39||55||50.9%||27.7%||3.70|
|Albert Pujols (LAA)||443||.258||.330||.437||12.4%||9.0%||17||40||64||45.8%||29.8%||3.79|
|Justin Upton (ATL)||396||.255||.347||.455||25.3%||11.9%||16||47||46||44.8%||21.6%||4.07|
|Giancarlo Stanton (MIA)||372||.251||.363||.470||26.3%||14.5%||16||54||40||41.4%||26.7%||4.18|
|Chase Headley (SD)||371||.225||.329||.356||25.1%||11.3%||7||42||30||44.9%||24.4%||3.94|
|Anthony Rizzo (CHC)||438||.220||.313||.420||19.6%||11.2%||16||49||56||44.5%||26.5%||3.92|
When you look at Miguel Cabrera, you see not the just best number three in baseball, you are looking at the best hitter in the game, on his way to historical greatness.
Andrew McCutchen potentially is on his way to being the NL MVP.
Joey Votto is a great player, but he is the reason why this chart includes walks, swing percentage, and chase percentage. There are many folks out there who get frustrated with Joey's selectivity and when you compare him to his peers, you can see why.
Robinson Cano, is the present and immediate future for the Yankees, if they can retain him. These numbers show you why Jay Z is feeling good about his client.
There is a reason why David Wright is called Captain America, and it's not just because of his good looks. He has good numbers in the three slot.
Carlos Gonzalez is a lifetime .300 hitter.
Dustin Pedroia is the anomaly on this list. The again, when you look at baseball's great players, Pedey is an anomaly in almost every respect.
Then you have the rest of Gilligan's Island in this select group.
The moral of the story
The moral of this story is very simple:
"If you are a pitcher, be less involved about thinking about number one...you're better off when you focus on number three."