As I watched Sunday’s game against Atlanta, a thought occurred to me: “Is it me, or is David Bell is always hitting with two outs and men on base?”
It turns out it wasn’t my imagination. Bell is tied for the major league lead with Andruw Jones in total at bats with two outs and runners in scoring position with an incredible 37 chances, on pace for 111 this season! He hasn’t fared well in that situation, hitting .189 BA, .231 OBP, .297 SLG. He also led the team in that category last year, earning 77 total chances, but with much better success, .273 BA, .411 OBP, .481 SLG.
In general, Bell, who’s getting about as many hacks out of the six-hole as the seven-hole, is constantly at bat with men on base, hitting with runners on 97 times this year, second-most in the National League.
Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell have also received lots of chances with men on base but they’ve delivered, earning more RBIs than any tandem in baseball.
But for some reason Bell gets more chances out of his six or seven spot than most players get in the four or five spot. I guess it also says something about how well Abreu and Burrell have been getting on base this season.
Around the league, there doesn’t seem to be a set pattern for which player gets the most tries with men on and two outs. Juan Pierre, a lead-off hitter with the Marlins, leads the team in chances with men in scoring position and two outs with 27, and on the Braves, Andruw Jones, a clean-up hitter, has the most.
I've read that five is the best spot in the lineup for the team's best clutch hitter, but for some reason the chances seem to trickle down to six and seven on the Phils. Is there anything that can be done to capitalize? Not really. I suspect that as the year goes on, Jim Thome and Burrell will start gaining on Bell in that category. One could also look at it this way: By ending the inning, Bell’s just doing what Mike Lieberthal, hitting eighth most nights, would do anyway. Historically, Lieby is the worst at hitting with men on base, with a bad line of .135 BA, .308 OBP, .173 SLG again this season.
Moving Lieberthal to the eight-hole this season was a good move because it shields him from taking at bats with men in scoring position. Where Bell has 64 at bats, most on the team, Lieberthal only has 24.