The Evolution of the Leadoff Hitter

 What happened to the "jack-rabbit" at the top of the lineup?? The guy you just didn't want to put on base, regardless of the situation, the score or the count.....

 Where have you gone, Rickey Henderson?? The quintessential leadoff hitter, equal parts speed, and power, who could put as much fear into you with a walk as much as his innate ability to change the game with one swing of his bat. 

 While taking in the beautiful symmetry of the Sunday box scores on a pleasant morning here in South Beach, upon closer examination, I noticed a trend here - more pronounced than in the past......upon closer examination, the leadoff hitter isn't really a "lead-off" hitter anymore. Let's take a closer look........

 What today's managers are doing, of course, started by Joe Maddon of the World Series champion Cubs, is putting a bonafide hitter at the top of the lineup not to "set the table" or give the pitcher something to worry about when he gets on base, it's to strike early and often.......and it is against all traditional thought processes......and it might be working.

 Today's game is about keeping the fans and the front offices' attention. What I mean by that is that the game is being changed ( some would say Over-run ) by stat-dorks who constantly besiege us and their managers with semi-useless #'s and probability rates based on past performance. Problem #1, the game is played in the present. Let's take a deeper look at some non-traditional leadoff men from yesterday's games.....

 Kyle Schwarber has to top this list for the simple fact that having him bat leadoff is hilarious and I might add, on a talented team, working. But that lineup is stacked, hell they could bat the pitcher leadoff and still win 90 games this year ( and I wouldn't put it past Maddon to do it ) With that team, I would love to see it :) 

 Schwarber has 3 career stolen bases, yes 3, so he is not going to "set the table" per se......he is more likely to "clear the table" and that is exactly what he is doing. Welcome to 2017.

 The Miami Marlins have a catcher batting leadoff...Yes, a catcher! The Indians have Carlos Santana ( no, not the Guitar Guy ) all of 5 stolen bases last year, batting leadoff. The Red Sox used the DH for their leadoff position....the DH. The Astros George Springer is more suited for a power slot, but he bats leadoff. Baltimore used Seth Smith, a career journeyman who usually bats 6th. The list goes on and on..........

 The caveat here is that the teams are doing this not so much to "buck the trend" per se, as it is that is borne out of necessity.....there just aren't many good leadoff hitters these days, I think too many chicks " dig the long ball " if you know what I mean, and the art of being a table setter and getting on base, is going out of style like a Facebook account to a millennial. ( and if you ask me, having a Facebook account is so passe......grow up and talk to someone - Ok Chooch, Calm Down :) 

 Back to the task at hand, name me a quintessential lead-off man in today's game????? Billy Hamilton - Cincinnati Reds?? Doesn't get on base enough......Anyone else??  Even the local teams here are having problems, the A's deploy Rajai Davis, who doesn't get on base enough and the Giants put up Denard Span who doesn't do anything enough. Hell, the A's used Marcus Semien yesterday and he had one of the worst OBP ( on base percentages ) in the Majors last year.

 In short conclusion, the game is changing because it has to - gone are the Rickey Henderson's, the Tim Raine's ( both Hall of Famers I might add ) and the Vince Coleman's - there are only a select few who can fill those voids in today's game, but I believe the pendulum can swing back with a little more emphasis at the youth and high school level on fundamentals and the "quirks" of the game - revel in your strengths, play your game, and you'll soon find out that not ALL Chicks " dig the long ball" - there is value and substance to " Leading Off " and making a difference, just ask 70% of today's teams.......they are still looking for it.

CHOOCH

Chooch