Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Twins behind in the golden age for leadoff hitters

On Tuesday over at ESPN's Sweetspot, an article was penned about the golden age of leadoff hitters. Major League Baseball could be in the middle of one of the best year's ever for the leadoff hitter. 1965, 1975, 1987, and 2004 were some other great years for men at the top of the order but this year could be historic.

Players like Shin-Soo Choo, Austin Jackson, Alex Gordon, Ian Kinsler, and Carl Crawford are leading a pack of leadoff hitters that are among some of the best in all of baseball. These men could help to make this season one of the best for the men at the top.

For the Twins, the club has struggled to get a ton of production from the leadoff spot. Batters in the first position for the Twins are hitting .197/.243/.244 with only three extra base hits. This .487 OPS is the lowest for any batting spot in the Twins line-up and it's well below the league average.

Overall, MLB hitters have an OPS of around .722 while leadoff hitters are even higher than that with a .759 OPS. Minnesota is almost .300 points behind the average for leadoff hitters. MLB leadoff men are have helped to push the average runs per game to 4.3, while Twins leadoff men have kept the Twins lower than average with a 4.2 runs per game mark.

The team is also having trouble in the steals department. Aaron Hicks is the team leader in steals with three. Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimon follow him with two apiece. Minnesota has gotten three total steals out of their leadoff spot. Over 650 plate appearances, that would translate to a little under 20 steals while the rest of baseball's leadoff hitters are on pace for 22 steals or more.

Hicks got most of the starts in the leadoff spot at the beginning of the year. His early season struggles brought down some of the team's totals from the leadoff spot. Dozier became the next man to take over the leadoff role and he has put together a solid performance in this role. Jamey Carroll has made a few appearances at the top and even Escobar has gotten a chance.

2013 Twins Leadoff Hitters
Hicks (10 Games): .047/.109/.047, 3 R, 0 SB
Dozier (13 Games): .304/.333/.411, 7 R, 2 SB
Carroll (3 Games): .286/.333/.286, 5 R, 0 SB
Escobar (1 Game): .000/.000/.000, 0 R, 0 SB

For the Twins to continue by successful on the field, there needs to be production from the top of the order. Hicks is suppose to be the leadoff hitter of the future but his struggles were evident in this role. Dozier has put together some positive numbers but it is hard to know if he will be able to sustain this level of output.

Since Hicks has moved down in the order, there have been some improvements to his approach at the plate. If he can continue those improvements (and not miss the cut off man on the field), he could find himself back at the top of the order by the end of the season.

The Twins hope Hicks can take back the leadoff spot because this will be a better team with a natural leadoff hitter at the top.

MLB might be in the golden age of leadoff hitters but the Twins have some work to do to catch up to the rest of the pack.

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