If I could choose one player as the embodiment of the ideal #2 hitter, it would be Bobby Abreu.
I've been arguing with T-Bone in the comments section about the nature of #2 hitters recently, and that debate dovetails nicely with the back-and-forth I've been having with Fish about the merits of Bobby Abreu. Fish is - to put it charitably - not a numbers guy. He dismisses Abreu as "soft," a ridiculous rap considering that Abreu has played in at least 150 games in each of the last 12 seasons.
I consider Abreu a borderline Hall of Famer, who has probably reached the stage of his career where he simply needs 3 or 4 average seasons to place himself squarely in the argument. Consider this - if Abreu plays three more seasons and his numbers do not plummet, he will finish with an approximate line of .290/.395/.480 with over 2,500 hits, close to 1,500 runs scored and RBI and nearly 400 stolen bases. (I don't care much about runs scored and the RBI, but Hall of Fame voters tend to consider them.)
In this jacked-up era of huge home run hitters (Fish's words), Bobby Abreu has done everything else offensively at a very high level for well over a decade. He hits for average. He steals bases. He piles up walks. He hits 35-40 doubles a year like clockwork. He is Paul O'Neill with speed and without the maturity issues.
The attributes I've listed above are almost exactly the attributes that the ideal #2 hitter should have. Forget this garbage about guys who "put the ball in play" or "know how to move the runner over." That's a nice way of saying, "he makes a lot of outs, but at least he does it in a way that the casual fan can be deluded into thinking is meaningful."
I want a #2 hitter who can give me a .300/.400/.500 season. I want a #2 hitter who hits 40 doubles and steals 30 bases. I want a #2 hitter who walks 100 times a year. Those guys are stars - and I want to bat those guys as high in the order as possible.
EDIT: I sometimes re-write my posts for Mack's Mets, especially if I can find a slightly different twist for his much, much larger audience to enjoy. (I average about 15 visits a day at the blog; Mack gets over 1,100). You can find Version 2.0 of this post here.