Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If a 1 turned out to be 5

Piniella is now publicly suggesting he is going to explore moving Soriano out of the lead off spot. He states that he has spoken with Soriano and his star player is
willing to do so as long as he isn't bounced around between his new spot and his previous one, lead off. So the stage now seems set for their to be a legitimate open competition for the 1 hole in the lineup.

Much has been debated on Soriano's effectiveness in the lead off role even before he came to the Cubs. When Soriano was with the Yankees, he so frustrated Joe Torre that he was jettisoned down in the order before being jettisoned out of town.

Soriano is a hybrid player similar to Ricky Henderson, amazingly gifted athletes with speed and power. However, that is where the comparison ends. The main function of a lead off hitter is to get on base and create havoc for the opposing pitcher with the threat of stealing a base. Why Henderson was so valuable in the lead off role was that he could work the count and also get on base via the walk, which was reflected in his career OBP of 401. Soriano on the other hand does not have a good command of the strike zone and avoids walks like the plague, which is reflected in his career OBP of 329.

A more apt comparative player to Soriano is Carl Crawford of Tampa Bay. Crawford is another one of those hybrid players with not quite as much power. He was a staple in the lead off role for the Rays until they brought in a manager that realized how not having a patient hitter in the lead off spot hurt the team. Crawford ehibited many of the same characteristics that Soriano had with great speed and good power, but a poor OBP. Crawford's career OBP is 330.

Now Tampa Bay's manager moved Crawford to the 5 hole and explained to Crawford that in fact he was still given the opportunity to steal bases when the 3 & 4 hitters in front of him had the ability to clear the bases. Crawford also wouldn't be hampered by trying to do something he wasn't capable of, exhibiting patience. Crawford moving to the 5 hole would also allow him to approach is AB's naturally as the free swinger with power that he is. Piniella should take a cue from his replacement in Tampa and move Soriano into the 5 hole.

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