Monday, April 18, 2011

Leadoff Rankings: Week 3

Previous Rankings: Week 1 | Week 2

The third weekend of the 2011 season has come and gone, and the Leadoff Rankings are starting to settle out. We're seeing a few of the better teams beginning to rise to the top, while the teams that are struggling are beginning to sink to the bottom. This week, as the sample sizes begin to approach something we can call useful (every team is over 105 ABs, with some approaching 130), we can also really start calling out important players who have really been struggling (or over-performing) in the first fifteen or so games thus far. There were a number of positive signs around the league, however, for teams that had been struggling (Tampa Bay) or missing something (Cleveland). The re-emergence of Johnny Damon and the return of Grady Sizemore both produced big boosts for the two American League teams--but just how big? To answer that question, hit the jump for this week's rankings!

(LW: Last week's ranking; AVG: batting average; OBP: on-base percentage; SLG: slugging percentage; RBI: runs batted in)

30. (LW: 29) San Diego Padres (7-8):
This Week: .191 AVG, .321 OBP, .191 SLG, 3 steals, 3 runs, 0 RBIs
Season Stats: .180 AVG, .278 OBP, .189 SLG, 8 steals, 10 runs, 1 RBI
Bud Black finally took Will Venable out of the top slot after the Padres April 14th loss to the Reds--not a bad idea, as the shortstop was putting up a lovely .159/.255/.182 line. Not to say the Padres were expecting great things from their leadoff hitter, but that's just atrocious--a major reason the Padres are 7-8 despite a very solid 3.49 rotation ERA.

29. (LW: 26) Washington Nationals (8-7)
This Week: .149 AVG, .200 OBP, .298 SLG, 3 steals, 3 runs, 7 RBIs
Season Stats: .183 AVG, .248 OBP, .333 SLG, 6 steals, 10 runs, 14 RBIs
Jayson Werth was struggling hitting up the two-slot, so the Nationals dropped him further down in the lineup--where he's still struggling just to break .200. Now Rick Ankiel and Danny Espinosa are hitting in the top two slots, though their five hits in the last two games weren't enough to save the Nats from another awful week (though at least the Nationals swept the Brewers).

28. (LW: 21) Detroit Tigers (7-9):
This Week: .167 AVG, .262 OBP, .204 SLG, 0 steals, 3 runs, 2 RBIs
Season Stats: .193 AVG, .278 OBP, .252 SLG, 3 steals, 10 runs, 7 RBIs
Amazing fact: in six games this week, the Detroit Tigers had six different leadoff combinations: on April 11th, it was Will Rhymes leading off for Brennan Boesch. The next night, it was Austin Jackson leading off for Ramon Santiago. That was followed by Jackson and Rhymes, Jackson and Casper Wells, Rhymes and Ryan Raburn, Jackson and Raburn, and finally Rhymes and Jackson! Who knows what's to come this week??

27. (LW: 28) Seattle Mariners (5-11):
This Week: .230 AVG, .288 OBP, .295 SLG, 2 steals, 8 runs, 5 RBIs
Season Stats: .209 AVG, .264 OBP, .284 SLG, 6 steals, 12 runs, 12 RBIs
The lack of production from Ichiro (.254/.315/.313) and Chone Figgins (.143/.149/.250) is starting to become a real concern, and Figgins was given a few days rest this week to try and straighten him out. I don't want to say that Ichiro might be in his twilight, but he is already 37--don't forget he played 8 seasons in Japan before even coming to America, and that was ten years ago.

26. (LW: 25) Los Angeles Dodgers (7-9):
This Week: .241 AVG, .267 OBP, .293 SLG, 1 steal, 7 runs, 1 RBI
Season Stats: .230 AVG, .276 OBP, .310 SLG, 5 steals, 17 runs, 6 RBIs
Don Mattingly has also been messing around with his leadoff combinations, using a mixture of Rafael Furcal (now injured), Jamie Carroll, Tony Gwynn Jr., and Casey Blake, with a mixture of success. Furcal used to be a solid top-of-the-order kinda guy, but at 33 and hitting just .195, it might be time the Dodgers found a new speedster to install permanently up top instead of rotating faux-leadoff hitters.

25. (LW: 16) Kansas City Royals (10-5):
This Week: .191 AVG, .255 OBP, .191 SLG, 2 steals, 6 runs, 2 RBIs
Season Stats: .231 AVG, .280 OBP, .313 SLG, 6 steals, 15 runs, 12 RBIs
The Royals stayed hot this week, going 4-2 despite their leadoff hitters yet again. Part of that comes from getting four against the Mariners at home, but Kansas City needs to find someone to establish themselves atop the lineup. Melky Cabrera (.279/.286/.397) is having a good season, but it's been Chris Getz who's taken his spot as Jarrod Dyson has lead off the last two games.

24. (LW: 27) New York Yankees (9-5):
This Week: .316 AVG, .333 OBP, .421 SLG, 0 steals, 8 runs, 4 RBIs
Season Stats: .236 AVG, .296 OBP, .311 SLG, 2 steals, 16 runs, 8 RBIs
Finally something positive up in New York in our rankings, as Jeter moves up into the leadoff spot while the Yankees take four of five from the Orioles and Rangers, two other American League teams that had been playing pretty well. Still, the top two for the Yanks have combined for just 25 hits and 20 strikeouts in 106 ABs.

23. (LW: 11) Texas Rangers (10-5):
This Week: .159 AVG, .260 OBP, .159 SLG, 4 steals, 8 runs, 3 RBIs
Season Stats: .216 AVG, .304 OBP, .414 SLG, 6 steals, 22 runs, 18 RBIs
Ron Washington has to hope that Ian Kinsler (.173/.323/.434) and Elvis Andrus (.176/.250/.314) remember how to hit, and soon--at least their on-base percentages aren't too awful, considering the averages. The walks are there, helping the OBP, but the 8 strikeouts in five games aren't too great--there's clearly something to work on down in Texas as the Rangers dropped four of six this week.

22. (LW: 18) Oakland Athletics (8-8):
This Week: .185 AVG, .279 OBP, .241 SLG, 2 steals, 7 runs, 2 RBIs
Season Stats: .226 AVG, .314 OBP, .323 SLG, 6 steals, 15 runs, 4 RBIs
Yet another team with more strikeouts (11) than hits (10) this week, though the seven walks do help a little bit. Still, the low RBI totals are a problem, considering the bottom of the lineup for the As is hitting better (.257 clip) than the top, meaning that the Athletics are definitely leaving runs on the table with their lack of hitting.

21. (LW: 23) Atlanta Braves (7-9):
This Week: .222 AVG, .239 OBP, .356 SLG, 2 steals, 8 runs, 2 RBIs
Season Stats: .236 AVG, .260 OBP, .354 SLG, 2 steals, 17 runs, 9 RBIs
Originally thought to be the team that could challenge Philadelphia in the NL East, the Braves find themselves ahead of only the Mets after three weeks of baseball. Nate McLouth might be the worst "star" player traded by Pittsburgh in the last few years of salary dumping, batting just .212/.281/.269, and could find himself replaced by Jason Heyward in the second slot of the lineup any day now.

20. (LW: 17) Boston Red Sox (4-10):
This Week: .214 AVG, .283 OBP, .357 SLG, 0 steals, 7 runs, 3 RBIs
Season Stats: .239 AVG, .299 OBP, .376 SLG, 3 steals, 17 runs, 11 RBIs
It's no secret around baseball that the Red Sox are struggling, big-time. They spent quite a lot of money this offseason on two major acquisitions, and so far only one of them is really paying off--while Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .269 and slugging .423, Carl Crawford has been dropped down to the bottom of the lineup, hitting just .127/.172/.145.

19. (LW: 19) Minnesota Twins (5-10):
This Week:.268 AVG, .268 OBP, .393 SLG, 1 steal, 3 runs, 3 RBIs
Season Stats: .260 AVG, .288 OBP, .354 SLG, 2 steals, 9 runs, 10 RBIs
Another team that mixed up their leadoff hitters this week, the Twins had five different combinations up top as Joe Mauer caught a viral infection and has been out for a few games. The production from the top would have been better with just a few walks--the batting average is nice but the OBP is far too low for any significant jump in production.

18. (LW: 20) Baltimore Orioles (6-8):
This Week: .289 AVG, .289 OBP, .467 SLG, 0 steals, 5 runs, 6 RBIs
Season Stats: .249 AVG, .283 OBP, .430 SLG, 1 steal, 15 runs, 17 RBIs
Once again, good batting average but no walks as the Orioles lose all five games this week against the Yankees and Indians to drop under .500--after a 6-1 start, it's back to "normal" in Baltimore. Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis are still talented hitters, though, and the Orioles will bounce back--especially with a few more walks and maybe some stolen bases as well.

17. (LW: 7) Arizona Diamondbacks (6-8):
This Week: .167 AVG, .196 OBP, .204 SLG, 1 steal, 5 runs, 2 RBIs
Season Stats: .246 AVG, .280 OBP, .357 SLG, 10 steals, 18 runs, 15 RBIs
The Diamondbacks top two had 13 strikeouts this week, and only 12 hits, so that tells you about the kind of week it was. This is one of a few teams with a leadoff hitter (Willie Bloomquist, hitting .316/.333/.421) who is getting pulled down from a total lack of production in the two-slot.

16. (LW: 22) Toronto Blue Jays (7-8):
This Week: .265 AVG, .321 OBP, .408 SLG, 2 steals, 5 runs, 8 RBIs
Season Stats: .248 AVG, .299 OBP, .392 SLG, 5 steals, 15 runs, 17 RBIs
After five different 1-2 combinations in the first 10 games, manager John Farrell got Corey Patterson this week and got some stability up top with Yunel Escobar and Patterson starting all six games. It was the best statistical week of the season thus far for Toronto, as Patterson hits .308 in his first few games of the season.

15. (LW: 24) Florida Marlins (8-6)
This Week:.286 AVG, .318 OBP, .381 SLG, 1 steal, 4 runs, 3 RBIs
Season Stats: .252 AVG, .321 OBP, .370 SLG, 1 steal, 15 runs, 9 RBIs
This was a good week for the Marlins, getting some production from Chris Coghlan and Omar Infante while taking three out of five on the road against the Braves and Phillies. Not a breakout game for the pair, but they did have multiple hits in each game while scoring a run in four of five.

14. (LW: 15) New York Mets (5-11):
This Week: .250 AVG, .318 OBP, .450 SLG, 4 steals, 8 runs, 7 RBIs
Season Stats: .259 AVG, .313 OBP, .396 SLG, 11 steals, 21 runs, 11 RBIs
Jose Reyes (.315/.351/.493) is producing as usual for the Metropolitans, but the problem for manager Terry Collins has been finding someone to hit behind him: neither Daniel Murphy (hitting .226) or Angel Pagan (.169) has been the answer so far.

13. (LW: 13) Milwaukee Brewers (7-8):
This Week: .250 AVG, .302 OBP, .350 SLG, 0 steals, 4 runs, 4 RBIs
Season Stats: .267 AVG, .323 OBP, .450 SLG, 1 steal, 17 runs, 11 RBIs
A five-game week started with two nice wins over division foe Pittsburgh, but then ended with dropping three games at Washington, even with four hits from the top two in the first game against the Nationals. Other than that game, the six hits all went for singles, and no steals means that Rickie Weeks and Co. weren't moving well around the bases.

12. (LW: 30) Tampa Bay Rays (6-9):
This Week:.412 AVG, .434 OBP, .686 SLG, 3 steals, 9 runs, 16 RBIs
Season Stats: .267 AVG, .307 OBP, .450 SLG, 9 steals 14 runs, 20 RBIs
It's been the Johnny Damon Show in Tampa this week, as the centerfielder had two walk-off hits this week. He's in the midst of a 9-game hitting streak that's raised his average from .053 to .232--not a bad jump, and it mirrors the jump the Rays make in the rankings with an awesome overall week.

11. (LW: 8) Chicago White Sox (7-8):
This Week: .255 AVG, .296 OBP, .275 SLG, 0 steals, 3 runs, 3 RBIs
Season Stats: .285 AVG, .321 OBP, .362 SLG, 5 steals, 19 runs, 14 RBIs
There's pretty much no way to have your team go 1-5 in a week and rise in the rankings, though all the losses came against the stellar staffs of the Athletics and Angels. However, when Juan Pierre is your leadoff hitter (and getting on base at least a few times, as he did 11 times this week), there's no reason the team should have zero stolen bases in six games.

10. (LW: 10) Houston Astros (5-11):
This Week: .250 AVG, .275 OBP, .300 SLG, 6 steals, 13 runs, 7 RBIs
Season Stats: .279 AVG, .336 OBP, .357 SLG, 10 steals, 26 runs, 13 RBIs
Michael Bourn has swiped seven bags without getting caught this season, providing a nice extra boost to his .350 OBP (which, while not bad, isn't optimal for a leadoff hitter). The Astros alternated wins and losses this week, with the highlight for the leadoff hitters a six-for-10 performance by Bourn and Angel Sanchez in a win over the Cubs on April 12th.

9. (LW:12) Cleveland Indians (11-4):
This Week: .277 AVG, .333 OBP, .489 SLG, 1 steal, 6 runs, 7 RBI
Season Stats: .289 AVG, .344 OBP, .488 SLG, 3 steals, 17 runs, 21 RBIs
Grady Sizemore made his long-awaited return from microfracture surgery (it's been 11 months since he hurt his knee by sliding last May), and his one game brought back some early returns--a home run and a double in his first four at-bats, to help the Indians win their 10th out of 12 games. The Indians have been hot, and the return of the multi-talented Sizemore could make them even more dangerous.

8. (LW: 5) Cincinnati Reds (9-6):
This Week:.296 AVG, .333 OBP, .537 SLG, 3 steals, 8 runs, 9 RBIs
Season Stats: .305 AVG, .355 OBP, .492 SLG, 7 steals, 27 runs, 18 RBIs
A groin injury pulled Brandon Phillips out of the starting lineup for a few games this week, and the Reds dropped two of three to the Pirates using Edgar Renteria and Miguel Cairo to try and fill that hole--so far this season, Phillips had put up a nice line of .354/.407/.458 along with five RBIs, 12 runs scored, and a pair of steals.

7. (LW: 9) San Francisco Giants (8-7):
This Week: .314 AVG, .340 OBP, .451 SLG, 0 steals, 9 runs, 4 RBIs
Season Stats: .312 AVG, .363 OBP, .432 SLG, 1 steal, 19 runs, 10 RBIs
Aaron Rowand moved into the leadoff spot for the Giants after Andres Torres suffered an Achilles sprain, but the production stayed consistent all week. Rowand collected nine hits in his five starts atop the lineup, getting key series wins against the Dodgers at home and the Diamondbacks on the road--early in the season, but always good to beat the division foes.

6. (LW: 6) Colorado Rockies (12-3):
This Week: .305 AVG, .388 OBP, .475 SLG, 3 steals, 13 runs, 10 RBIs
Season Stats: .307 AVG, .401 OBP, .441 SLG, 6 steals, 28 runs, 14 RBI
The Rockies are rolling, winning six of seven this week (including a four-game sweep at the Mets) while their 1-2 hitters combined for multiple hits in all seven games. Solid production across the board, but not a good enough week to boost them up the rankings--still, a .300/.380/.470 line is basically all you can ask for on a week-to-week basis.

5. (LW:14) St. Louis Cardinals (8-8):
This Week: .362 AVG, .371 OBP, .551 SLG, 0 steals, 15 runs, 8 RBIs
Season Stats: .328 AVG, .400 OBP, .433 SLG, 3 steals, 23 runs, 11 RBIs
One of the best teams this week, the Cardinals were rewarded by seven straight games of Ryan Theriot and Colby Rasmus up top. Before going hitless on Sunday, the 32-year-old Theriot had an eight-game hit streak in which he hit .400 (16-for-40).

4. (LW: 3) Pittsburgh Pirates (7-8):
This Week:.256 AVG, .370 OBP, .462 SLG, 4 steals, 4 runs, 3 RBIs
Season Stats: .310 AVG, .407 OBP, .517 SLG, 9 steals, 22 runs, 15 RBIs
Jose Tabata had his 10-game hitting streak snapped this week by the Brewers, but went 4-for-5 against the Reds a few days later, continuing his hot start to the season (.321/.438/.491). Taking two out of three at Cincinnati was a positive sign for Pittsburgh on a team looking for anything they can get.

3. (LW: 1) Los Angeles Angels (10-5):
This Week: .283 AVG, .296 OBP, .415 SLG, 0 steals, 5 runs, 5 RBIs
Season Stats: .341 AVG, .382 OBP, .563 SLG, 3 steals, 17 runs, 16 RBIs
The Angels get the three-slot due to a better week than the Pirates, as they end the weekend on a five-game win streak after sweeping the White Sox in Chicago. Maicer Izturis and Howie Kendrick had 12 hits in that series, creating a lot of traffic up at the top of these rankings.

2. (LW: 2) Philadelphia Phillies (10-4):
This Week:.300 AVG, .364 OBP, .425 SLG, 0 steals, 4 runs, 4 RBIs
Season Stats: .345 AVG, .387 OBP, .483 SLG, 2 steals, 18 runs, 20 RBIs
The Phillies manage to hold onto the second slot mainly because none of the teams behind them had fantastic weeks, not that Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco didn't play well. The Phils only played five games this week but the pair had multiple hits in four out of five, and a single RBI in four of five as well.

1. (LW: 4) Chicago Cubs (7-8):
This Week: .442 AVG, .491 OBP, .635 SLG, 2 steals, 12 runs, 8 RBIs
Season Stats: .398 AVG, .456 OBP, .537 SLG, 2 steals, 22 runs, 16 RBIs
Well, you certainly can't blame the Cubs slow-ish start on Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney. The pair had FOUR games this week where they combined for at least five hits (out of six played). The only thing really lacking has been steals up top, but the high slugging percentage and run totals show the Cubs aren't struggling for lack of a few swiped bases.

Previous Rankings: Week 1 | Week 2

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