Who Gets to Set The Table

“I want a leadoff guy who can get on base, who can hit, who can run. I want a two-hole hitter who can do some things offensively, that can move the offense along.” – Tim Bogar, Rangers interim manager
Tim Bogar was recently asked about what he wants out of his daily lineup. The above quote is just a sampling of the thoughts he offered about who he would like in each position, and it will be the crux of this article. You can read Jeff Wilson’s interview with Bogar here.

We all know by now that Shin-Soo Choo was brought in to get on base and create scoring opportunities for the club. When the season kicked off, he looked fantastic and assuaged the doubts brought on by his hefty contract. He has been sidelined due to injury, and will hopefully be 100% by Spring Training. Even if he is completely healthy, I think Leonys Martin is creating a competition for that leadoff spot, and that’s not a bad thing.

First, we need to start by briefly discussing Elvis Andrus. Bogar mentioned him as well, saying:

“Andrus is a perfect two hitter, because he can handle the bat. If the leadoff gets on base, Elvis is going to get more fastballs, Elvis is going to be able to use that hole over there, and bunt him over after a stolen base. I don’t see anybody who should be there besides him.”

Elvis batting 2nd is a source of much debate and probably will be as long as he is still put in that spot in the lineup. He’s spent the majority of his time hitting 1st, 2nd, and 9th, with the other most time spent in the 8th hole. Here’s how he shapes up in each spot, over his career:

wRC+, or weighted Runs Created plus, is a park and league adjusted way to determine how a hitter performs, as compared to the league average (which is 100). As you can see, Elvis is only above average in the 8th spot, which is one of his least occupied spots. If Bogar is concerned about creating runs whenever possible, having Elvis occupy those last two slots may be beneficial to the lineup, simply based on his on-base numbers looking best in the eighth spot. If he is asked to move down the lineup, who leads the top? Let’s now go back to Choo vs. Martin.

In terms of hitting leadoff, Choo has the sample size advantage, but Martin is currently in a very interesting stride of his own when batting leadoff. Here are their career numbers hitting leadoff:


What does all this mean? Well, sample size set aside, Martin may deserve an extended chance to see what comes of this streak he’s on. He doesn’t have the isolated power numbers that Choo shows, which is a matter to discuss in another work, but he is showing to be just as effective at getting on base and putting balls into play. Essentially, we know what Choo is capable of when hitting leadoff, but Martin may keep getting his chances if he keeps up this level of production.

The competition comes to a dead halt when looking at who would be better served hitting second. It’s Choo, and not it’s not even close. Here’s how that match up looks:


Sample size set aside again, he shows more power hitting second, and his OPS & wOBA indicate that he’s still effective in getting on base. Also, a seven point wRC+ differential between positions is not terribly concerning and would indicate that he could serve a line up well in either spot.

If a manager was setting the lineup and took these numbers at their face value, a top of the lineup for 2015 could go Martin/Choo/Fielder/Beltre and that would be a formidable way to start off a game (presuming any occurrence of regression is kind to each player). They need as much production in those first two spots as they can muster, and I believe Martin & Choo fill those two slots much better than a Martin/Choo & Andrus combination could going forward.

There are a lot of questions to answer before the 2015 season begins. Removing Elvis from the two spot and putting him in the 8th or 9th spot would be a bold move, but hitting him 8th or 9th could open up doors for Martin, Choo, and consequently, the sluggers Fielder and Beltre, as well. I hope the new manager, whether it’s Tim Bogar or someone else, will look at every facet available to him and find ways to maximize the potential available on the future roster.

Sarah Powers

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