Matt Kemp batting leadoff, 2008: .263/.364/.447 (.811 OPS)
Juan Pierre batting leadoff, 2008: .256/.294/.290 (.583 OPS)
I’d say 228 points of OPS, 70 points of OBP, and most importantly, a 7-2 record in games Kemp has hit leadoff are probably a good thing, right? Certainly, the winning tendencies of late can’t be pinned entirely on the new blood at the leadoff spot (the starting pitching has been phenomenal), but those stats simply cannot be ignored. You can’t even use the “speed” argument either, as Kemp has 19 stolen bases and excellent speed himself.
Besides, this isn’t about bashing Pierre, just pointing out that there may indeed be a superior leadoff option and putting out there the futile hope that perhaps Joe Torre will stick with it even when Pierre’s back. Not only that, there’s actually a role that Pierre may even be better suited for: run producer. I know, I know – I can’t believe that I even typed those words. Because believe it or not, with the exception of the dearly departed Rafael Furcal, Juan Pierre has been this team’s most effective hitter with runners in scoring position, putting up a fantastic line of .377/.431/.491.
So doesn’t it then, when he returns (which according to Tony Jackson is ahead of schedule, though with no timetable), make sense to put him in a spot in the lineup where he’s A) not guaranteed to get at least his first at-bat with no runners on, and B) not hitting behind the pitcher’s spot, which is also unlikely to producer runners on? In a vacuum, I’d rather him batting 8th, as when he gets on in front of the pitcher, there’s a sac bunt and bam, a speedy man in scoring position for Matt Kemp. But that’s probably unlikely due to the daily uncertainties at shortstop and Torre’s insistence on continuing to play Blake DeWitt, so why not put him in a slot where he’s actually proven to be pretty good this year? Hitting second, Pierre’s got a line of .432/.512/.486. Yeah, it’s a relatively limited sample size, but it at least offers hope, where his large sample size of batting leadoff offers none at all.
Kemp batting 1st. Pierre batting 2nd. Some mix of Loney/Martin/Kent/Ethier hitting 3-6, and the survivors of shortstop and third 7th and 8th. I like it.
It’ll never happen.
- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness