Joe Maddon Revisits Carlos Pena Batting Second with Kelly Johnson | The Process Report

Joe Maddon Revisits Carlos Pena Batting Second with Kelly Johnson

In recent days Joe Maddon has taken to batting Kelly Johnson second in the order. Johnson, to his credit, has given the Rays a boost. He’s worked counts, taken walks, and hit mistakes over the plate. So far the marriage between Johnson and the number-two slot has been perfect. Which is why it’s worth noting that the inspiration for batting Johnson may have came from last season’s experimenting with Carlos Pena in the two-hole.

Johnson and Pena might not feel like similar hitters but they are. While Johnson is more athletic than Pena, and more flexible defensively, at his core they’re both dependent on the three true outcomes. The similarities run beyond their walk, strikeout, and home run numbers in recent years, as both face the same defensive shifts. Johnson even had a hit stolen from him against the shift on opening day.

Johnson and Pena, 2010-13

Player K% BB% HR% XBH/H%
Johnson 25.2% 10.9% 3.5% 40.0%
Pena 28.1% 15.2% 4.2% 47.0%

The philosophical reasoning for batting Johnson second is the same as for batting Pena second. If Desmond Jennings reaches then the defense cannot shift. If Jennings fails to reach then Johnson, or Pena as it was last season, can reach base or plate himself with a home run. The threat of a strikeout looms large in either case, yet Johnson has the benefit of being a new face while Pena had three 150-plus strikeout seasons with the Rays already entering 2012.

It’s too early to know whether Maddon will continue employing Johnson as the second-place hitter. However, it’s safe to assume Maddon is willing to bat players who fan a lot high in the order. Even if it’s only by necessity.

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