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Yasiel Puig could hit leadoff for the Dodgers this season

Feb 3, 2014, 11:03 PM EDT

Yasiel Puig AP AP

According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly indicated over the weekend that Yasiel Puig could serve as the club’s leadoff hitter this season.

The plan calls for Carl Crawford, who hit leadoff in 86 games last season, to slide down to the No. 2 spot in the order. Mattingly believes that the change will provide better righty-lefty balance in the lineup. In this scenario, Puig and Crawford would be followed by the right-handed hitting Hanley Ramirez and the left-handed hitting Adrian Gonzalez.

Puig hit .319/.391/.534 in 104 games as a rookie last season while making the majority of his starts (51) out of the No. 2 spot. The 23-year-old also made 27 starts out of the leadoff spot, 17 out of the cleanup spot, and one out of the fifth spot in the order.

Puig was a spark plug for the Dodgers last year and finished with a higher walk rate (8.8 percent) than the league average, but he was just 11-for-19 (59 percent) in stolen base attempts. The Dodgers will have to hope that he gets better picking his spots in 2014.

  1. 78mu - Feb 3, 2014 at 11:38 PM

    A lot of teams would like to have someone lead off with an OPB of 391. It’s not quite Rickey Henderson but pretty close. Add in his power numbers and he could be the best since Rickey.

    • stoutfiles - Feb 4, 2014 at 7:05 AM

      This is assuming his OBP stays that high. Most of his numbers were from that ridiculous hot streak when he got called up. Those last few months he fell back down to Earth when pitchers learned how to pitch to him. His OBP won’t be as high as last years.

      • Joe - Feb 4, 2014 at 8:31 AM

        His OBP by month, starting in June: .467, .352, .405, .333 (with a .214 BA)

        Carl Crawford’s OBP for the season: .329 Career .332

        Puig, in leadoff position: 333/409/618 (28 games)
        Puig, leading off game: 417/481/500 (27 PAs)
        Puig, leading off inning: 414/463/626 (108 PAs)
        Puig, bases empty: 357/415/621 (258 PAs)

        Looks like he’ll be pretty comfortable in that position. (Sample size qualifiers in effect.)

        I wouldn’t be concerned with his SB rate. Batting leadoff doesn’t require one to steal bases. I watched years of Boggs and sometimes Evans leading off for the Red Sox, and that worked out OK.

  2. apkyletexas - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:35 AM

    Puig throws his body around recklessly, and they want him to lead off? Smart move. He should make it onto the disabled list by late April, mid-May at the latest.

    • Professor Fate - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:38 PM

      Why all the hate for Puig? A Cuban steal your boyfriend?

      • apkyletexas - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:43 PM

        Not hate – honesty. He was injured twice last year without batting leadoff. You put him in a lot more free-wheeling base running/stealing situations, and the dude is going to tear himself up.

        If you’ve got a Griffey Jr. body, and Griffey Jr. skills, you should learn the lesson Griffey Jr. never learned until it was too late – don’t tear up your body. Junior could have easily been the best player ever stat-wise. The dude missed multiple seasons worth of games, and still finished with 630 home runs.

  3. baseballisboring - Feb 4, 2014 at 4:17 AM

    I like him better in the 2 spot, I think you’re wasting his power a little bit batting him leadoff for an NL team. But the OBP and speed are nice.

    • stex52 - Feb 4, 2014 at 8:11 AM

      Something to be said, though, for some pop in the leadoff position. Nothing like a first pitch home run. to put the opposition in a hole in a hurry.

      • kyleshabram - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:51 PM

        whoops! hit “report”, meant to hit “reply” my bad!

  4. spudchukar - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    The problem arises further down the line-up though. Once Kemp is healthy the lower half of the order improves, but if it is Ethier in center, then Uribe hits 5th, followed by Ethier, Guerrero, Ellis and the pitcher.

    In that scenario, Gonzales gets a lot of free passes, and not many good pitches to hit. While it might put undo pressure on the rookie, but Guerrero might just be the premier option. Offense is supposed to be his strength.

  5. happytwinsfan - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    i wonder if the impact of the batting order isn’t over rated as many numbers people tell us “protection in the order” is. after the first inning who’s coming up 1st, 2nd etc. is increasingly a crap shoot.

    maybe a manager would do better to think in terms of who each guy is hitting between. which combinations are most likely to make it difficult for the pitcher to slide off the hook when runners are on, for the other manager to get good bullpen match ups. sure if you’re in the national league you put the pitcher 9th so you can get as many innings from him as possible with as few at bats as possible, but that might be the only hard fast rule.

    i remember one of the all star games in the sixties, when who won or lost still meant something, the national league manager put willie mays leadoff. his reasoning was that he wanted to get mays up as many times as possible. that sort of thinking might be starting to make more and more sense.

    ??

    • spudchukar - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:51 PM

      Here’s the rub. The idea that whatever combination that scores the most runs is preferred, doesn’t necessarily mean the most wins. 2013 Pirates exemplify this. Some things just aren’t measurable. Like how an easy part of a line-up aids the opposing hurler. Before adopting the most ABs for the better players, analysis of a more balanced top to bottom should still be considered.

      • happytwinsfan - Feb 4, 2014 at 4:14 PM

        that’s kind of what i was thinking. the traditional approach is your speedy, high on base guys 1- 3, the power guys 3-6 and the pop gun hitters 7 – 9, giving the pitcher an easy inning every three innings if all’s going well for him. instead a manager might choose to have one of his better hitters somewhere 7 – 9 so the pitcher never gets such a break. or he might give priority to having a good righty hitting behind his lefty who has a hard time with left handers to make it more expensive for the other team to bring in a lefty just to get your lefty. he might consider making sure that his best hitter hits 1 – 3 so he’s sure to get an early look at the starters stuff or even an extra at bat which pays off later in the game.

        the possible considerations are endless, and not really well addressed by the traditional approach.

  6. kyleshabram - Feb 4, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    The Rickey Henderson comparison is extremely attractive- but I haven’t seen the discipline out of Puig to warrant being a leadoff hitter. Rickey seemed to thrive (and enjoy) setting the tone for his team/the game. Puig doesn’t fit that, IMO. Also, as mentioned above, the reckless style of play is a concern, and hitting leadoff might increase the reckless opportunities.

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