Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Leadin’ Off 

I was reading on CNNSI today and I was intrigued by their article about Sean Burrough’s success as the Padres leadoff man. In cavernous Petco Park playing “small ball” (I’m sorry: I’m sure people are tired of the phrase) is vital for the Padres and Burroughs is doing a pretty nice job: .377 OBP. What struck me, looking at his stats, was the fact that Burroughs has little speed and little power: three steals in 31 games this season, and just seven of his forty-three hits went for extra bases.

I always thought that speed was the sine qua non of being a lead-off man: you get on base, you steal second, you hit-and-run, and that was the way that you produce runs. Now it just looks like OBP is the be-all, end-all of batting first, which bothers me about the Phils because our two lead-off guys are speed and power demons: Rollins seduced a lot of Phils fans back when he came up with his tremendous power and made us think of Ricky Henderson circa 1989. And Byrd, despite my support for Bowa just giving him the leadoff slot, still whiffs twice as often as he walks.

Burroughs, in contrast, has really cut down on the K/BB ratio in 2004: 11-8. Is that what it takes to leadoff now? If so then the Phils might have a problem: this season Byrd is still 2-to-1 (25-11), and Rollins, despite all of the talk about him working with Tony Gwynn to lower his strikeouts, is still a little high (14-9) (although I admit that does suggest that Rollins has a better, more selective, eye this year: it is just that his hits aren't falling). The A's deemphasized speed in the leadoff slot that they've actually put in pinch runners for their leadoff men at times. Should the Phils deal for a guy who hits the Marlins well and plays center or short to leadoff when it comes time to make the run for the pennant in September?

(Oh, and I'd like more feedback on my idea to institute the DH in the NL: surely there are more purists out there!)

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