Disclaimer: I'm not a guru offering deep insights into the game. My baseball wisdom is limited and I am often puzzled by many of the strategic narratives that exist. Maybe some of the experts can chime in and enlighten me (us).
The ensuing discussion and it's related questions (e.g. How will Miggy handle batting #2?) got me thinking about the logic behind the leadoff hitter. So I did a few computations.
But first what is meant by "Leadoff Hitter"? I can think of three connotations.
- The batter in the #1 slot
- The first batter in the sequence of 1-4 usually ending with the "cleanup batter"
- The first batter to bat in an inning
The last option is what I was concerned about. So I simply tallied up the Tigers at bats from the first four games of the ALCS to see who lead off in each inning. These are the results:
Batters Leading off an Inning
|Game 1||Game 2||Game 3||Game 4|
|Inning||Leadoff Batter||Lineup Position||Leadoff Batter||Lineup Position||Leadoff Batter||Lineup Position||Leadoff Batter||Lineup Position|
Lineup Positions leading off an Inning
|Lineup Position||Leadoff At Bats||Lineup Position||Leadoff At Bats||Lineup Position||Leadoff At Bats||Lineup Position||Leadoff At Bats|
Four game cumulative totals
|Lineup Position||Total Leadoff At Bats||Percentage|
From this admittedly small sample size one can see that leadoff hitter doesn't leadoff much more than the others. Over an entire season the percentages would probably level out and the #1 slot would have a higher percentage for two reasons: 1) The #1 batter is guaranteed to leadoff an inning at least once per game. 2) The Batters at the top of the order will always have as many if not more at bats than the bottom of the order.
I realize the leadoff hitter must be a certain type of hitter. One who can get on base and has speed. I also realize the sequence is important leadoff type hitters followed by power hitters. But this arrangement could be positioned anywhere in the batting order and do to its cyclical nature any inning could end up having the optimal sequence. One obvious reason, that I've already mentioned, is that by putting these battes in the 1, 2 and 3 spots one is at least guaranteed that this sequence will happen at least once.
I guess my big question is this: Are the percentages of the leadoff hitter actually leading off an inning so much greater than other possibilities that all the hype about the batting order positioning is justified? Batting sequence yes, obviously. But as we saw yesterday the initial result of taking the pressure off Jackson by moving him to the #8 slot was that he had more pressure than usual, having to bat with the bases loaded.