Monday, February 22, 2010

Are you happy with these two dorks hitting leadoff?

It is pretty much a given that Ryan Theriot or Kosuke Fukudome will be in the lead-off position during the 2010 season.  I believe they will platoon.

And with Theriot's arbitration hearing over, everyone has hugged and all is well we can now get back to business...Theriot is going to lead off.  Blah.

 You can pretty much assume Theriot is out on this play. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Initially, Fukudome will be the leadoff man against right handers, but I believe, as Nady continues to get healthier, Xavier will take more and more playing time away from Kosuke.  The result?  Theriot will be the leadoff man most of the time.


Ok...enough of the Theriot hate...

Let's assume Nady and Fukudome do have a true platoon out there, and let's assume that Theriot and Fukudome actually split time at the lead-off slot, we can guess at some stats that we can expect from that position in the lineup.

I'm not sure how baseball is played in Japan, but in this country we usually face the pitcher, not the on deck circle.

Kosuke has had only 2 seasons in the major leagues, and that first season I don't believe is too indicative of who he is as a I'm going to judge everything based off of last season.  For Theriot, we'll just go by his career totals, as he has been relatively consistent during his time with the Cubs. 
If we say that the two split the number of plate appearances in half, we can average that to about 350 plate appearances each. Based off of last year, they will do the following:

player Kosuke Theriot Total
ave .259 .288 .274
OBP .375 .356 .366
Runs 46 47 93
Hits 75 89 164
BB 54 32 86
K 65 37 102
SB 3 14 17
CS 6 5 11 the first thing that should just puke out at you are those stolen base stats.  These two guys either have horrible senses on the base pads or they think they are much faster than they actually are.  Either way, these two need to work on their base stealing.  Also realize that Theriot, the more successful base stealer, would be leading off more against lefties, which could eat into his those numbers may actually end up being crapper than shown here.

Now compare the numbers above to what we got with Soriano during his two years at leadoff...2007 and 2008...averaging out the stats for 700 PA:

player Soriano
ave .291
OBP .340
Runs 108
Hits 189
BB 46
K 146
SB 24
CS 6

Now I hated...absolutely hated...Soriano batting lead-off. And we can argue about Soriano's value as a lead-off hitter compared to his value as a middle of the order guy at some other point.

With that aside, Soriano strikes out more and walks less, but he gets on base almost as much, scores more runs, and steals more bases.  Soriano also had more doubles than these two guys would project out to have.

Now, for me, having a player actually score is important for a lead-off man.  Soriano scores.   Yes, often times it is by home run, but he still does score in those cases. Does it matter if he drives himself in? No...not as a lead off hitter. we come to this argument about K-Fuk and Riot...if they platoon, and Fukudome hits lead-off mostly against right-handers and Riot hits lead off mostly against left-handers, shouldn't their stats be better?

So let's take that into consideration.  If you figure the Cubs will face a lefty 1/3 of the time and a righty 2/3 of the time, we can look up their splits and adjust them appropriately. I am going to figure that Theriot will get 5/6 of the plate appearances against lefties and 1/3 of the appearances against righties...and 1/6 and 2/3 respectively for Fukudome.  (I'm pulling those numbers out of my ass...nothing scientific about it.)  This would equal 50% of the PA for each player. Based on all that, Theriot would have 195 plate appearances at lead-off against lefties and 155 plate appearances against righties. Fukudome would have 39 PA against lefties and 311 against righties.

I'm going to exclude the stolen base and runs numbers since they are hard to figure because they are less pitcher specific...

player Kosuke Theriot
vs. RHP vs. LHPvs. RHP vs. LHPTotal
PA 155 195 311 39 700
ave .270 .164 .282 .304 .277
OBP .387 .277 .347 .386 .367
Hits 70 5 39 51 165
BB 48 5 13 22 88
K 53 12 18 13 96

Ok...after all that work, things didn't change a whole bunch.

Why? Well, Kosuke didn't bat much against lefties in the first place...his hit numbers really didn't change much.  Theriot's numbers aren't hugely worse against righties. And due to the balance of lefties and rights for Theriot anyway , it really didn't make much of a difference in this scenario. 

So this basically makes me conclude that I need to start my annual complaining about the fact that the Cubs still don't have a good lead-off hitter.

These two guys just aren't right for the job. Theriot has a hard time getting on base, Kosuke gets picked off when he does get on base...neither have a great sense for getting around the basepads. It seems to me that Theriot is much more ideal as a #2 hitter due to the fact that he gets the ball in play and is more likely to help move runners over. Fukudome...I really don't know where he fits in a lineup any more because he strikes out so much.

And besides, if Theriot or Fukudome were the answer to that position, why haven't they batted lead-off regularly in previous seasons? There's a reason...because they didn't offer much of an improvement over a player like Soriano. (And I'm not saying Soriano should lead-off.) I'll be interested in seeing what some of the sabrmetricians think about this. Maybe they have some stats out there that can make this seem more acceptable.


So, are you happy about these two guys hitting lead-off? I'm not. But we don't have much of a choice now, do we. I just wish we had someone better...(don't we always?)