Sunday, March 25, 2012
Passing the Leadoff Baton
Blue Jays skipper John Farrell continues to explore his options at the top of Toronto's explosive batting order. The decision has been made over the pass five spring training games to give 2B Kelly Johnson a shot at the top of the order, while SS Yunel Escobar has been slotted into the #2 hole. This move has paid great dividends for the top of the order thus far; and this move continues to create quite a buzz around Blue Jays Nation (not the website, the fan base).
The differences between these two players are stark when compared with each other. Johnson and Escobar have similar career on-base percentages (Johnson OBP .343 & Escobar OBP .366) with the edge going to the Cuban slick fielding SS. Escobar also keeps the edge with a career batting average of .289, almost 30 points higher than Johnson. The power difference has to go Johnson with 19 per 162 games, and Yunel with just 11. Kelly has the advantage on the base-paths, but it has been said this ST that Escobar has been working on his base running. This assessment leaves Escobar with the statistical edge for leading off in the Toronto Blue Jays batting order.
However, there is something much more telling then these individual statistics when compared next to each other. As a right-handed hitter Escobar has proven in his 5 years of big league ball that he is the superior hit-and-run batter. With the ability to slap the ball through the right infield hole when Johnson is on base – the Jays are left with a better chance to have runners on 2nd & 1st when Mr. Bautista comes to the plate.
I believe that Escobar will remain the leadoff hitter with the Opening Day Blue Jays roster because of one major reason: Johnson is a better base stealer, and this is not beneficial with Jose already leading the majors in walks in 2011. If Johnson is to be utilized to his best potential it will be his better power numbers and OBP ahead of Jose, not his speed.
Regardless of the final decision and the batting order presented on April 5 in Cleveland, the Toronto Blue Jays have a few batting order problems that are good problems to have. Who is more useful as leadoff? Which order gives Jose the best chance to see fastballs, and therefore drive more runs in?
Make no mistake Blue Jays fans, K. Johnson and Y. Escobar are both good options as leadoff hitters for the 2012 season. With a little more Pacific Coast League seasoning, the ability to bunt once again, and a continued presence with the major league level – Anthony Gose WILL BE a prototypical leadoff hitter that the Toronto Blue Jays will covet for years to come.
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Posted by Nick Topolie at 8:15 PM