Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Guess Chicks Really Do Dig the Long Ball

In the sports world, the leadoff spot has always been somewhat of a sanctuary for small, skinny white guys--a place where the likes of Scott Podsednik and David Eckstein can make a living. However, more and more it seems teams today are looking to guys who don't get carded at their local Applebee's to perform that job (Sorry Scott).

Take for instance, the Cubs former leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano. Soriano is neither getting hits (.252 AVG) nor getting on base (.313 OBP) at the rate you would expect of a leadoff hitter. On top of that he has struck out 94 times and hasn't redeemed himself with a lot of stolen bases (7 SB). More striking, however, is that for his 18 homers, he only has 45 RBI to show. Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips--former leadoff hitter--has 67 RBI while touting three fewer home runs than Soriano. Couldn't the North-siders be getting much more offensive contribution from him lower in the order?

Well, after two and a half years the Cubs finally dropped Soriano in the order. Last night, while hitting sixth, Soriano came up with the bases loaded and belted a grand slam. Granted you can't judge success based on one at-bat, but if I were a Cubs fan I would be rejoicing about Soriano's new home in the order.

For all that, I think Soriano's case is a rare one. If a player has a rare combination of speed, discipline, and power, I can understand the interest in slotting him at the top. Here are a handful of leadoff hitters right now that don't have to live off infield base hits and Texas leaguers.

1. 2B Ian Kinsler (Texas): .242 AVG, .314 OBP , 22 SB, 23 HR, 60 RBI
-Kinsler is similar to Soriano in that he doesn't get on enough for a leadoff guy. However, he does steal a lot of bases and has managed to produce a lot of RBI.

2. OF Curtis Granderson (Detroit): .260 AVG, .344 OBP , 17 SB, 20 HR, 47 RBI
-Although he's losing RBI at the one-hole, his speed may be to hard to pass up in that role.

3. OF Nate McLouth (Atlanta): .259 AVG, .349 OBP, 15 SB, 15 HR, 52 RBI
-His penchant for not getting caught on the base-paths is nice to have at the top of the order.

4. Grady Sizemore (Cleveland): .230 AVG, .323 OBP, 9 SB, 14 HR, 51 RBI
-He's having a down year all around, so it's hard to judge.

5. SS Jimmy Rollins (Philadelphia): .236 AVG, .289 OBP, 17 SB, 10 HR, 46 RBI
-Hit 30 homers in 2007. Isn't doing much of anything this year.

Honorable Mention: Hanley Ramirez, Johnny Damon, and Brian Roberts
-Former leadoff hitters that all have plenty of pop in their bats.

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