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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

A Slugger Leading Off? ‘It’s Not Analytics, It’s Not a Hunch.’

At 6 feet tall and 229 pounds, Schwarber is built more for the home run derby than the Boston Marathon. He has never stolen a base for the Red Sox. Originally a catcher and mostly a left fielder, he was so clumsy around first base in the division series that he raised his arms in triumph after making a routine play.

Schwarber does have a high on-base percentage — .343 for his career, one point better than Ellsbury’s — but that is not the reason the Red Sox bat him first.

“It’s not analytics, it’s not a hunch,” Manager Alex Cora said after Game 3, when Schwarber’s grand slam powered Boston to a two-games-to-one series lead. “It’s just out of necessity, to be honest with you. It feels really good right now with this lineup.”

In eight playoff games, that lineup has produced 57 runs and clubbed 20 homers while batting .317. Schwarber has led off in six of those games (he bats second against left-handers), part of a chain reaction after J.D. Martinez sprained his ankle during the final game of the regular season.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 19, 2021 at 01:49 PM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: kyle schwarber

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   1. JustDan Posted: October 19, 2021 at 03:28 PM (#6047499)
Yeah, it isn't like he didn't bat leadoff for the Nationals without any success.
   2. Tom Nawrocki Posted: October 19, 2021 at 03:37 PM (#6047502)
The article doesn't note that Jose Altuve, who hit 31 homers this year (one fewer than Schwarber), has led off all three games for the Astros.
   3. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: October 19, 2021 at 03:49 PM (#6047505)
There still exists an odd conventional wisdom or expectation that the leadoff hitter is a certain body type or hitting style.

You just want all your good hitters near the top of the lineup.
   4. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 19, 2021 at 04:03 PM (#6047508)
There still exists an odd conventional wisdom or expectation that the leadoff hitter is a certain body type or hitting style.

You just want all your good hitters near the top of the lineup.


There's logic to it, in addition to old traditions. If you have a slugger like Sal Perez, with a 273/316/544 line, leading him off would be stupid. You want him batting with men on, to maximize the impact of the HRs. You want high OBP in spots 1 and 2, high SLG in 3 and 5. Best hitters should bat 2 and 4.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: October 19, 2021 at 04:36 PM (#6047519)
You also would like some speed so you don't have to go station-to-station in front of your sluggers.

As to "necessity" ... Bogaerts, Devers and Verdugo all have equally good OBPs and Verdugo has a modest ISO by today's standards. None of them are exactly Vince Coleman on the bases but Verdugo would be a perfectly fine and standard option for leadoff.

While I'll assume this is a reasonably well-known bit of trivia in Red Sox land, I wonder how many of us could name their stolen base leader this season.
   6. TomH Posted: October 19, 2021 at 04:54 PM (#6047531)
ha ha - I had to look this up. You could give me multiple choice and I would still have gotten it wrong if I had X-1 guesses.
   7. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 19, 2021 at 04:58 PM (#6047532)
ha ha - I had to look this up. You could give me multiple choice and I would still have gotten it wrong if I had X-1 guesses.

Once you said this, I guessed it by picking the most implausible guy I could name :-)
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 19, 2021 at 05:03 PM (#6047533)
You also would like some speed so you don't have to go station-to-station in front of your sluggers.

As to "necessity" ... Bogaerts, Devers and Verdugo all have equally good OBPs and Verdugo has a modest ISO by today's standards. None of them are exactly Vince Coleman on the bases but Verdugo would be a perfectly fine and standard option for leadoff.


Yeah the Red Sox lineup seems to sort pretty easily.

Verdugo first, as Walt says. Good OBP, modest power. Bogaerts 2nd; 2nd best hitter and high OBP. Devers 3rd, 3rd best hitter, high SLG. Scwarber 4th; best hitter, Martinez 5th; good OBP and Power, then Renfroe, Hernandez, Arroyo, Vazquez in order of declining performance.

   9. villageidiom Posted: October 19, 2021 at 05:08 PM (#6047536)
While I'll assume this is a reasonably well-known bit of trivia in Red Sox land, I wonder how many of us could name their stolen base leader this season.
I don't know how well-known it is in Red Sox land, but I am in Red Sox land and I knew it. He was tied for third in stolen bases for Boston last year, one behind Jackie Bradley, Jr.
   10. John DiFool2 Posted: October 19, 2021 at 07:46 PM (#6047573)
His OBP is .435 with the Sox, 33 BB in only 168 PA.
   11. Rally Posted: October 20, 2021 at 08:17 AM (#6047731)
Angels were doing this almost 40 years ago. First team I ever followed from start to finish was the 82 team. Brian Downing was an ex-catcher just like Schwarber. He led off in 146 of his 158 games, hit 28 homers, stole 2 bases. And it worked, he scored 109 runs.
   12. OsunaSakata Posted: October 20, 2021 at 05:16 PM (#6047876)
A slow, high-OBP, leadoff hitter would be driven in by power hitters with doubles and homers. He doesn't need speed. It would make more sense to put the speedster lower in the lineup, like 6th, where stealing 2nd is more valuable, and the hitters behind him are more likely to hit singles.
   13. Ron J Posted: October 20, 2021 at 06:06 PM (#6047892)
#11 As I'm sure everybody is aware for the longest time most managers tended to select their batting order based on stereotypes (and for the longest time the #2 hitter had an even more clearly defined role than leadoff hitter. I think Glenn Beckert might be the last guy who batted second based on his ability to make contact rather than getting on base).

But Connie Mack was smart enough to bat Max Bishop leadoff even when he had faster guys. Bishop lived on first, had a career high of 8 SB and basically stopped running by his late 20s. Outs on base are bad when you have Cochrane, Foxx and Simmons coming up after you.

Lu Blue was far from the fastest guy on the team but Ty Cobb mostly used him as a leadoff hitter (he stole more than I thought though so maybe not a great example)
   14. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 20, 2021 at 06:12 PM (#6047896)
Schwarber’s free agency should be interesting. He’s not terrible in left field, at least to my eye. He gets a decent jump on the ball off the bat, takes OK routes, and catches what he gets to. Ideally, you’d want someone faster with a better arm, but there is a shortage of such types with anything close to Schwarber’s bat. I’m dubious about making him a 1st baseman, where a good fielder is a big plus. DH & occasional LF in a pinch would be his best use, IMHO. Will that get him 5 years at $15M per year? $18M? Or $20M+? If there is a universal DH, I wouldn’t be surprised to seem him land a deal at the higher end of that range.
   15. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 20, 2021 at 06:13 PM (#6047898)
A slow, high-OBP, leadoff hitter would be driven in by power hitters with doubles and homers. He doesn't need speed. It would make more sense to put the speedster lower in the lineup, like 6th, where stealing 2nd is more valuable, and the hitters behind him are more likely to hit singles.

Right, slow doesn't matter. If your slow high OBP guy also hits lots of HRs, you don't want him leading off. You want him batting behind other high OBP guys, not the dregs at the bottom of the lineup.

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