Monday, March 30, 2009

Nick Leads Off: Go with that Manny!

It's just a spring training game, and Milledge is the anointed lead-off man once the season starts, but today's line-up has Nick Johnson leading off.

(He was also DH-ing, which when Nick inevitably goes to Oakland in his latter years is where I expect to see him make headlines when he leads the A's to the playoffs with a healthy, MVP-caliber season at some point when he's maybe 34 or 35 years old. Mark it down. You heard it here first.)

As I've discussed before, Nick is damn near the ideal lead-off man. At the top of the line-up, first and foremost, you want one of your very best hitters. Batting lead-off gets you about 70-80 more plate appearances over the course of the season compared to hitting in the middle of the order. That's significant if you're trading Cristian Guzman for Nick Johnson.

Second, you want a high on-base guy. The most important thing is leading off an inning is to just not make an out. Run expectancy with no outs and no one on is 0.52 runs. Putting a guy on first base almost doubles that to 0.90. Meanwhile, no outs and a runner on second base only raises RE to 1.15. These numbers show you not only the huge value of getting that first hit, but also the relative unimportance of stealing second base. Furthermore, stealing in front of a big power hitter like Adam Dunn is even less smart, since he's always one swing from knocking himself in.
The key is to just have a guy who isn't a bad baserunner. You want enough speed to avoid clogging the bases, and you want someone who isn't going to run into outs. But stealing a lot of bases isn't a prerequisite.

Of course power is always good, even in the lead-off spot, and getting those extra ABs for guys who have some pop is desirable, but you don't want your biggest power hitters there for obvious reasons.

Put all that together, and Nick's by far the best option.

One other thing. Since my strangely controversial post last week praising Nick Johnson's excellent spring, his line is up to .268 / .400 / .537. Only eight players in the whole league put up numbers to match those last season: Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Holliday, Milton Bradley, Chipper Jones, Manny Ramirez, Lance Berkman, and Mark Teixeira. Extend his spring numbers over a full 700 PA season, and he'd have 46 homers and 136 RBI.

That's not called struggling. That's called a great spring training.

7 comments:

Jon said...

Personally, I would lead Milledge off and bat Johnson in the 2 hole, for all the reasons you point out. Then I would stick Guzman at 6... or lower even. I think Milledge, Johnson, Zimmerman... etc., makes a great top and middle of the lineup.

Hendo said...

. . . when Nick inevitably goes to Oakland in his latter years . . .

Let's make it this year, and -- while we still can -- swap for Daric Barton. (Who, by the way, seems to be developing a propensity for health issues, so everybody should feel right at home.)

Steven said...

Jon--I could live with that. The key thing is that Guzman needs to go down in the line-up.

Will said...

If only it had worked out a little bit better today (NJ 0/4 3K). I was hoping that if this lineup really looked good, Manny might give it a bit more thought during the season. Based on the pretty terrible results, I wouldn't be surprised if we never see this again. Armando Galarraga comes back to bite us in the ass again! Blast you Bowden!

NJ may not be slumping, but Zimmerman and Milledge have been dreadful recently. Even with Zimm's HR today, he's shown hardly any power, just 3 XBH in 49 ABs. Milledge is even worse off, only 2 XBH in 58 ABs! I'm trying not to get too worried about ST stats, but Zimm and Milledge aren't looking good at all.
In fact, there's not much at all to be positive about from the Nats' bats. Kearns and Hernandez are just about the only two players coming out of camp with better than expected numbers.

Sasskuash said...

I saw something that almost made me cry on MLBTR today: Apparently Kasten, not Bowden, capped the Crow negotiations at 3.3 Mill. If this is true, then the decider who made the worst decision in Nationals (brief) history is still with the team...

I've always liked Kasten, and have been giving him the benefit of the doubt by blaming everything on Jimbo, but I'm running out of patience with Kasten now that Jim is gone. We'll see how the season, draft and following offseason go before I turn on Stan completely.

Steven said...

I blogged about this after discussing it with Stan last August. It's clear that Stan was the final decider on Crow, and that his motivation was purely to get the personal satisfaction of telling an agent to go to hell. It'll cost his team money and wins, and he did it for instant personal gratification. He should be hated for it.

Will said...

firestankasten.firejimbowden.blogspot.com?