The One Hitter…Should Luis Robert be moved up in the lineup?

This is the One Hitter, don’t forget to exhale.

Something I have been hearing recently is that Luis Robert should be moved up to the number 2 spot in the lineup so he can get better pitches to hit and break out of his slump. The idea here is that he would have more protection from the hitters behind him and therefore get better pitches aka more fastballs. To this I ask, why would pitchers pitch him any differently?

The theory of batter protection is that a Barry Bonds-esque player is behind you in the lineup thus terrifying the pitcher of walking you and forcing him to throw you tons of strikes. While this may actually exist (I have my doubts), it would seem to require a player willing to take a walk. Luis Robert is not currently that player. He has only walked 19 times while striking out 71 times.

So let’s compare him to Yoan Moncada who has spent 38 games in the 2 hole. Moncada is getting 54.7% fastballs. Robert is getting 54.2%. So moving him would not garner him many more fastballs. However, Moncada is getting less breaking balls: 28% to Robert’s 39%. But that has a lot less to do with their spot in the order and a lot more to do with how much they chase pitches outside of the strike zone. Moncada chases around the league average of 28%, while Robert chases 40% of the time. Why would pitchers stop throwing him breaking balls? Short answer: they won’t. Especially good ones.

Take a look at these splits:
vs >= .500 teams: .180/.255/.370
vs < .500 teams: .266/.330/.500
vs SP: .193/.246/.376
vs RP: .259/.347/.506

Luis Robert is a young, extremely talented hitter that pitchers are already afraid of. So he will continue to get breaking balls until he improves his plate discipline or gets his chase contact into Tim Anderson range (TA7’s chase contact is 57% to Robert’s 42%). I wish there were a way to fix this quickly, but much like putting a Bears QB into the shotgun doesn’t magically fix anything, moving a guy in the order likely won’t either. He just needs to get better against good pitchers throwing tough pitches. When he does, there won’t be a fully functional scoreboard left in the league.


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