Monday, April 4, 2011

Leadoff Rankings: Week 1 (Way-Too-Early Edition)

In any baseball lineup, there are two spots in the order that get more attention than any of the others--the number four, or cleanup, hitter, and the number one guy--the leadoff hitter. That leadoff guy is traditionally someone who gets on base rather often, and has the speed on the basepaths to put pressure on the defense as the heart of the order comes to the plate. As baseball players have gotten more athletic and more versatile, it's become common for more than one player to have leadoff-type qualities, and there are plenty of very talented number two hitters who do a great job of getting on base (Placido Polanco, Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia, Freddy Sanchez, etc). Every spot further down in the lineup costs a player about 20 at-bats over the course of a season--so, if the number one hitter bats 600 times, it's expected that the number three hitter would have 560 at-bats, the number five hitter would have 520 at-bats, and so forth. Let's assume a player bats .300 for a season--that amounts to a difference of six hits for every spot in the order he's dropped. So, what that all means is that a team with production at the top of the order should have an advantage over teams relying on more production from their fourth and fifth hitter.

With that in mind, we debut our first ever Leadoff Rankings: a statistical look at which teams are getting production from the first two spots in their lineup--regardless of who is playing. That is, we're not going to rank the teams based on talent level in their top two spots, but by their production instead. Obviously, that means these first rankings, after most teams have played just three games, are not exactly going to be representative of how these lineups will turn out, but neither are any Power Rankings at this point in the season. The list is slightly objective--there's no set formula to decide which team gets the highest ranking, but we look at number of factors. On-base-percentage is very important, as are steals and runs scored. RBIs are nice from the top of the lineup, but that can often be misleading, as American League squads are more likely to have production from the bottom of the lineup (leading to more RBIs for the guys batting first and second). However, it still comes down to all-around performance for these rankings. So, who had a great first weekend in terms of top-of-the-lineup production? Hit the jump to see how your team did!

(all teams have played 3 games except where noted)
30. Washington Nationals 
This Week: .174 AVG, .240 OBP, .261 SLG, 0 steals, 0 RBI, 3 runs
In the Nationals' 6-3 win over Atlanta, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth combined for three hits.  In their two losses to the Braves, the Nats' top two hitters only managed one hit.

29. Florida Marlins
This Week: .167 AVG, .286 OBP, .167 SLG, 0 steals, 1 RBI, 2 runs
Marlins leadoff hitter Chris Coghlan struggled in the season-opening series against the Mets, posting a .083 batting average with only one single and two walks.

28. San Diego Padres:
This Week: .222 AVG, .222 OBP, .259 SLG, 0 steals, 1 RBI, 3 runs 
The Padres received no walks from the top two spots in their batting order, leaving them with a league-worst .222 on-base percentage through the first weekend.

27. New York Yankees:
This Week: .182 AVG, .250 OBP, .182 SLG, 1 steal, 1 RBI, 4 runs
No extra-base hits for the Yankees' leadoff guys (Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter) in their first series of the season really tends to bring down the slugging percentage. Assuming Jeter doesn't suddenly realize that he's 37 and not getting any younger, this ship will right itself.

26. Tampa Bay Rays:
This Week: .174 AVG, .240 OBP, .348 SLG, 0 steals, 2 RBI, 1 run
Getting swept, at home, by the Orioles, is no way to start your season. Johnny Damon and Ben Zobrist, who started the first two games at the top, need to be productive for the Rays.

25. Los Angeles Dodgers (4 games):
This Week: .200 AVG, .250 OBP, .300 SLG, 0 steals, 3 RBI, 3 runs
The top of the Dodgers' order went hitless in eight at-bats on Saturday and mustered only three total bases through the first three games of the season.

24. Toronto Blue Jays:
This Week: .208 AVG, .269 OBP, .292 SLG, 2 steals, 2 RBI, 1 run
The Blue Jays took advantage of poor starts from Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano to win the first two games, despite a so-so performance from their leadoff guys.

23. Atlanta Braves:
This Week: .192 AVG, .222 OBP, .308 SLG, 0 steals, 2 RBI, 5 runs
Martin Prado and Nate McLouth broke out in a big way in Sunday, going 4-for-9 with seven total bases and four runs scored.

22. Detroit Tigers:
This Week: .174 AVG, .269 OBP, .304 SLG, 1 steal, 3 RBI, 5 runs
Moving Ramon Santiago up to the second slot on Sunday worked for manager Jim Leyland, as his top pair scored 3 runs to help beat the Yankees for the only time in three games.

21. Houston Astros:
This Week: .208 AVG, .269 OBP, .292 SLG, 0 steals, 3 RBI, 5 runs 
The Astros did have the misfortune of having to go against the Phillies top three of Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt, but speedy centerfielder Michael Bourn can make things happen from the leadoff spot.

20. Kansas City Royals (4 games):
This Week: .237 AVG, .275 OBP, .395 SLG, 4 steals, 3 RBI, 3 runs
The Royals won three of four at the Angels in spite of this performance from their top pair, 30-year-old Mike Aviles and former Yankee Melky Cabrera. The four steals are a plus and will help create more runs, but they need to get on base much more often.

19. St. Louis Cardinals:
This Week: .286 AVG, .400 OBP, .333 SLG, 0 steals, 1 RBI, 2 runs 
When the Cardinals get Matt Holliday back in the middle of the lineup, that run total should increase--the leadoff guys were getting on base but not able to cross the plate, which is a key ingredient to the whole "winning games" thing.

18. New York Mets:
This Week: .241 AVG, .267 OBP, .414 SLG, 2 steals, 2 RBI, 6 runs
The Mets only managed one walk from the top of their order this weekend, but they made the most of their opportunities, scoring six runs despite a low on-base percentage.

17. Boston Red Sox:
This Week: .261 AVG, .320 OBP, .435 SLG, 1 steal, 2 RBI, 4 runs
This is one of the teams I'd expect to see rise up the rankings as the season progresses, with Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia manning the leadoff spots--I'd be quite surprised if the pair batted for a .261 average for the season.

16. Cleveland Indians:
This Week: .280 AVG, .333 OBP, .360 SLG, 0 steals, 4 RBI, 2 runs
Asdrubal Cabrera left four men on base Sunday from the two-hole as the Indians dropped their first series of the year to the White Sox; he and Michael Brantley have started each game thus far.

15. Milwaukee Brewers:
This Week: .240 AVG, .269 OBP, .640 SLG, 0 steals, 5 RBI, 2 runs
A great slugging percentage wasn't enough to help the Brewers--leadoff hitting is more about getting on base, and doing so just a quarter of the time isn't enough for Rickie Weeks and company.

14. Arizona Diamondbacks (2 games):
This Week: .316 AVG, .350 OBP, .421 SLG, 3 steals, 3 RBI, 1 run
The top of the Diamondbacks' order had a huge afternoon in the season opener, going 5-11 with a walk; however, they only scored one run.

13. Minnesota Twins:
This Week: .318 AVG, .428 OBP, .455 SLG, 1 steal, 3 RBI, 2 runs
Seven strikeouts in three game doesn't bode well for the combo of Denard Span and new Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka, a 27-year-old second baseman from Osaka.

12. San Francisco Giants (4 games):
This Week: .333 AVG, .371 OBP, .455 SLG, 0 steals, 5 RBI, 5 runs
Freddy Sanchez had a huge afternoon on Saturday, going 3-4 with a home run, 3 RBIs, 2 runs scored, and a walk.

11. Philadelphia Phillies:
This Week: .318 AVG, .400 OBP, .409 SLG, 0 steals, 3 RBI, 5 runs
The Phillies won their season opener despite an 0-6 showing from Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco.  Their 4-8 performance the next night showed that maybe opening day was just a fluke.

10. Colorado Rockies (2 games):
This Week: .333 AVG, .400 OBP, .500 SLG, 0 steals, 3 RBI, 2 runs
Though they've racked up good numbers in all the important categories (.333 average, .900 OPS), the Rockies do need to worry about the six total strikeouts through two games at the top of the order.

9. Oakland Athletics:
This Week: .348 AVG, .400 OBP, .522 SLG, 1 steal, 1 RBI, 4 runs 
An OPS of .125 in the first game of the season hurt Coco Crisp and Daric Barton, one of a few first basemen batting in the two-hole early in the year.

8. Baltimore Orioles:
This Week: .304 AVG, .333 OBP, .522 SLG, 0 steals, 7 RBI, 3 runs
It was a great all-around weekend for Baltimore, winning three games in Tampa while Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis both hit above .300 in their first few games.

7. Seattle Mariners:
This Week: .320 AVG, .370 OBP, .480 SLG, 4 steals, 4 RBI, 3 runs
Is Ichiro ever going to get old? At 37, the future Hall of Fame outfielder already has two doubles and two steals in his first three games, helping the Mariners take two out of three from the Athletics.

6. Chicago White Sox:
This Week: .364 AVG, .417 OBP, .409 SLG, 0 steals, 3 RBI, 7 runs
Both Juan Pierre and Gordon Beckham started all three games, and would have placed higher if not for an 0-for-6 performance on Sunday in a 7-1 loss to the Indians.

5. Los Angeles Angels (4 games):
This Week: .375 AVG, .390 OBP, .725 SLG, 2 steals, 6 RBI, 5 runs
Good production from the top of the lineup didn't help too much in Kansas City, as the Angels dropped 3 of 4. Still, Howie Kendrick and Maicer Izturis both had three-hit days on Sunday, in 13 innings.

4. Cincinnati Reds:
This Week: .360 AVG, .407 OBP, .720 SLG, 2 steals, 6 RBI, 7 runs 
Drew Stubbs and Brandon Phillips have started each game for the Reds, and Cincinnati used their production at the top of the lineup to sweep Milwaukee to open the season.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates:
This Week: .435 AVG, .519 OBP, .609 SLG, 0 steals, 5 RBI, 8 runs
Jose Tabata and Garrett Jones had five hits on Sunday, all singles--in fact, all sixteen of Pittsburgh's hits were singles.

2. Chicago Cubs:
This Week: .500 AVG, .556 OBP, .750 SLG, 0 steals, 3 RBI, 5 runs 
21-year-old Starlin Castro had two triples in Sunday's 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh, just the fourth and fifth three-base hits of his young career.

1. Texas Rangers:
This Week: .435 AVG, .500 OBP, 1.087 SLG, 0 steals, 7 RBI, 8 runs
Ian Kinsler had three home runs in his first 10 at-bats, for a 1.400 slugging percentage, as the Rangers swept the Red Sox in Arlington.


  1. Great stuff! I utilize this on teh rec softball team I manage, where I bat the best player first, so they get the most ABs. The Cardinals did it with McGwire in his prime, and I am surprised that more teams don't move guys up, simply for the PAs.

  2. Glad you think so. We'll be doing one of these every week, plus a Rotation Ranking every Fridays...all season long!!