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The Dangling Conversation, Part IV - We Speak of Things That Matter And Words That Must Be Said

Rincewind:  So who should bat leadoff?

Hugo:  Hmmm.  With the Jays’ current personnel, no one is really suited for the leadoff role.  Early in his career, Aaron Hill showed some glimpses of possibly developing towards the role (he OBPed .342 over about 2/3 of a season as a 23-year old, which is quite a good sign for such a young middle infielder in his first taste of major-league ball, and boosted that to .349 the following season), but his more recent performance and both his and the team’s statements suggest that he’s not the man for the job right now.  Conversely, Marco Scutaro has been lousy at getting on base throughout his career -- he did a halfway respectable job of it last season (.341), but not good enough to lead off for a good team.  Alexis Rios and Vernon Wells have batted leadoff in the past, but neither one is particularly adept at reaching base either.  Rios did steal 32 bases (75% success rate) last season, but unless he significantly improves his OBP from last season (.337), that won’t really do.  Rios and Wells are needed to drive in runs anyway.   

The best Jays at reaching base are Lyle Overbay and Scott Rolen.  Neither one has base-stealing speed, but Rolen reached base at a .370 clip against lefties, while Overbay did so at an even better .385 rate against righties.  If no one is added from outside the organization, I would give very strong consideration to platooning those two at the leadoff position, which could result in as much as a .380 OBP from the leadoff spot based on their performance and splits from 2008 (and as you know, neither one had a career year or anything).  That would go a long way to the Jays scoring more runs in 2009. 

Of course, if the Jays get Furcal, it’s a moot point – he’s the leadoff man, with the speed, the switch-hitting, and a .352 lifetime OBP.  But I would bat Rolverbay (awesome!) in the 2-hole. 

Rincewind:  Rolverbay? Sounds like a bad rock band. “Direct from Cincinnati, to sing you their big hit, it’s Roverbay”. That would be my suggestion too (knew I should have answered this one first), they both get on base so well. But I would bet you dollars to donuts that Cito wouldn’t do it. I was so hoping you’d suggest Rios so we could argue. In the early 80’s the Angels had a big, slow LF/DH Brian Downing that looked like a power guy and he would hit 15 to 25 homers a year, but he would also take 70 to 100 walks a year and they used him as a leadoff man, on the theory that the power hitters hit behind him so why waste a base stealer in front of guys that are going to pound the ball anyway. I don’t think Cito would think that far outside the box though.

The good part to me is that Overbay wouldn’t feel force to try to hit for power, I don’t think that is his strength. I think he is better off to be allowed to work the count and not have to swing for the fences. Putting him in the middle of the order and expecting he to drive in 100 runs is not going to work. If he leads off, then hitting 15 to 20 home runs is a bonus.

I did like Inglett batting at the top of the order but since he is unlikely to have a role on the team next season. Would you be strongly against Inglett playing DH if we don’t sign someone? Furcal would be a great pickup, especially because he would keep Scoot out of the leadoff spot.

Hugo:  Haha sorry for stealing your thunder there, but I am glad to hear we agree.  Inglett was good at the top of the order against righties, but I don’t like him in the DH role on an everyday basis. I think he’ll get his at-bats, since he will be backing up a lot of positions and injuries will be inevitable.   He might be a better leftfielder than Lind anyway, so it’d likely be Lind at DH and Inglett in leftfield. 

Rincewind:  My worry is, no way does Cito have Overbay/Rolen leadoff. So without Inglett having a spot in the lineup, I’m expecting that we will be treated to Scoot as a leadoff man. If the Jays were to pick up Hardy or Greene I have no idea who Cito would use. We will have to come back to this question closer to the start of the season.