I've decided to get out front on the issue of our new leadoff man, The Fonz! I don't support him batting leadoff, not now, not ever.
We have a little history on Soriano, so let's look into it.
Soriano in 2006 had 46HR, 41DB, 41SB, 17CS, 160K and 95 RBI. Can you tell me why a player with 87 extra base hits should bat leadoff? How is that using his ability to best serve the team? It's not, pure and simple. When you have 87 extra base hits and only 95 RBI's, you start to see the fallacy in this scenario.
Oh but you say, he stole 41 bases and we don't have a proven leadoff hitter. Well when you're CS 17 times, you've taken yourself off the base paths 41% of the time when you attempt a steal. Do you think those 17 outs cost the team more runs than the 41 extra bases contributed to scoring runs? There is no doubt that the outs were more damaging.
Since baseball is a zero sum game where runs scored and runs allowed both have equal weight when you want to chalk up a game in the win column, let me put it to you this way.
If Soriano had the top of the order up in front of each of his AB's, do you think the team would score more runs than if he has the bottom of the order up in front of each of his AB's.
If Soriano is caught stealing with the heart of the order following him, do you think the team would score as many runs if he didn't steal a base at all?
The answer is quite clear. Soriano can generate more runs for the team batting in the middle of the order than his legs would provide at the top of the order.
If Soriano hit between Lee and A-Ram for example, he'd have protection following him in the order to make sure opposing pitchers have to pitch to him. Soriano doesn't have that protection with the 2 hitter following him in the order.
Any two hitters the Cubs have that have a high OBP, it doesn't matter if it's Murton and Barrett, they will give the Cubs their best opportunity to score the most runs. They both have the two best and above average OBP's with excellent bat control, who cares if they can steal a base. You can't steal first base and the team isn't sacrificing a monster run producer in the leadoff spot. It's a no brainer, the Cubs would have significantly more run scoring opportunities with those two at the top and Soriano's big bat following them then the other way around.
Let me give you another one of the most common occurrences in the NL. Punch and Judy are usually bringing up the rear of the lineup with the pitcher to follow. When either of those hitters get on base in front of the pitcher, what happens? The pitcher bunts that man to second base, that's what. Now we have Soriano coming to the plate with first base open and the 2 hitter on deck. Do you think the opposing pitcher is going to pitch to Soriano or walk him?
Baseball is the same today as it was when I played. At Oklahoma State, the emphasis was always put on being patient at the plate and learning how to hit defensively if you got behind early in the count early. That's the way I was taught and the way I coached in HS as well, and it is a key fundamental of any high run scoring team. The players that were the most disciplined at the plate, unless they had prodigious power, hit at the top of the order, period. It's no different today in the majors. Sure you need some power hitters but many teams have power hitters and don't have a good runs scored total. When you look at teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, who lead the league or are in the top 5 in OBP year after year, you see the value of giving your team the best opportunity to score as many runs as possible when the run producers are at the plate.
This is a leadoff man.
This is not.