A number of articles have begun to surface concerning the effectiveness of the Fonz, as a lead off man. Although I've expressed my concern before about the new gun hired this past off season batting lead off, I'd just like to present the relationship of his Home Runs and Stolen Bases on the teams ability to score runs.
As recently as 2003, the Cubs had a legitimate lead off man in Kenny Lofton. Lofton in the mold of every excellent lead off man, exhibited patience at the plate with the ability to steal bases.
We saw last season with J. Pierre, how ineffective the Stolen Base was when the OBP suffered. Not only did Pierre's lack of willingness to work the count for a walk hurt the meager scoring opportunities for the Cubs but Pierre compounded it by being thrown out attempting a stolen base at an alarming rate.
In 2004, the Cubs had a Home Run mashing team that still barely cracked the top 10 in runs scored. We all know that the lack of scoring runs was widely attributed to the lack of runners on in front of the middle of that potent order.
We are now days from the 2007 Cubs opening of Spring Training, and are prized free agent acquisition is purportedly penciled in as our new lead off man. Is this the most effective use of this multi-talented offensive weapon?
Let's look at some historic numbers for a moment and see what we can glean from them about filling the lead off spot with Soriano.
In 2006, The Fonz was a 40/40/40 man with the Nationals hitting in the lead off spot, impressive to say the least when you consider he carried an OBP of 351. However, Soriano has never had an OBP over 332 in his career. His career OBP is 325 and his 2005 OBP was 309, Yikes! Soriano does have some pretty impressive numbers hitting out of the 5 hole however with Texas. In 497AB he hit 270 with 30HR and was 24 for 26 in SB.
The question Pinella has to ask himself, is the 351OBP from 2006 the real thing? I say no way.
Pinella would be wise to take a page out of T. LaRussa's book and bat the offensive Juggernaut Soriano, in the 2 hole like LaRussa did with L. Walker.
The opportunity to have opposing pitchers intentionally walk Soriano after a pitcher advances a runner to 2B is to easy a decision for an opposing manager to make when the next hitter will be a considerably less potent RBI threat. If the Fonz were hitting out of the 2 hole, he would be immediately followed by Lee and Ramirez. This would force opposing pitchers to not pitch around him and in the above sacrifice scenario with first base open, pitchers would now face the best OBP hitter in the Cubs lineup. This allows for a possible walk of the lead off man or scoring the runner from 2B without an extra base hit.
I understand Pinella's desire to give Soriano as many AB's as possible and use his prolific speed at the top of the order, but let's be real here, aren't both of those options still available with the Fonz hitting from the 2 hole?
Pinella should realize that he loses very little with Soriano hitting second. Soriano will see better pitches to hit and increase his RBI opportunities.
Let's face it, when all is said and done, baseball is a zero sum game. The team with the most runs wins, period. Not maximizing the the Cubs run potential, just makes our already questionable rotation all the more susceptible.