At what point does speed outweigh a lousy OBP?
Joe Morgan was fond of saying that speed was the No. 1 factor in searching for a leadoff hitter. Statheads used to believe that OBP was everything, that it made far more sense to put a slow guy with a big OBP in the leadoff spot than a fast guy who didn’t get on base.
Billy Hamilton pretty much sucks at getting on base. But he’s so ridiculously good when he does get on that he’s a viable leadoff hitter anyway.
Hamilton has hit leadoff for the Reds 36 times this year and scored 27 runs in those games. Brandon Phillips, though, has been leading off while healthy these last seven weeks. He’s scored 19 runs in 37 games leading off.
Of course, that’s not really a valid test of speed versus OBP. Oddly enough, both have .280 OBPs in their time batting leadoff. Both have also hit three homers as leadoff man, so that doesn’t really factor in. And while Phillips isn’t quite a burner these days, he’s actually gone 6-for-7 stealing bases from the leadoff spot.
The run totals, even if they’re a bit fluky, suggest that Hamilton should be leading off for the Reds. His .280 OBP is probably worth about the same there as a .330 mark from a merely decent runner. He wouldn’t continue scoring three runs every four games if returned to the spot, but then, who does? Mike Trout and Brian Dozier currently lead the majors in runs scored (largely because they have 27 and 20 homers, respectively) and they’re barely better than that (.775 runs scored per game).
And the Reds’ alternatives simply aren’t any good. Phillips has never been an on-base guy, and the other four guys to have opened a game in the leadoff spot for the Reds this year (Zack Cozart, Skip Schumaker, Ivan De Jesus Jr. and Kris Negron) have posted even worse OBPs. Plus, Joey Votto has thrived on those occasions in which he’s hit second behind Hamilton. Unless the Reds somehow come up with a viable option in one of their upcoming trades involving Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake or Jay Bruce, Hamilton is going to be their best option at the top the rest of the way.
The first-place Nationals could have two of their better bats back in the lineup next week. Both Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth are set to play rehab games for Single-A Potomac on Saturday.
Rendon has been out since June 25 with a strained left quad. So as to tread more carefully with the injury, the Nationals intend to have him play third base initially on the rehab assignment, even though they’d prefer to use him at second base in the majors.
Werth, who is coming back from a broken wrist, started playing for Potomac on Thursday and will play his third straight game today. He went 1-for-5 the last two days, starting in left field Thursday and DH last night.
Both Rendon and Werth also opened the season on the disabled list for the Nationals before returning for brief stints; Rendon has played 18 games in the majors this year, compared to 27 for Werth. Danny Espinosa has been pretty terrific in picking up the slack for Rendon. However, Nationals left fielders have largely struggled in Werth’s absence.
Mike Trout launched his third career walkoff homer off Koji Uehara with two outs in the bottom of the ninth Friday, giving the Angels a 1-0 win over the Red Sox.
Uehara was able to get ahead with a fastball to begin the at-bat against Trout, but he opted to throw him another one right away, rather than go to the trusty splitter. Trout deposited it over the walk in left-center to end it.
Trout had been 0-for-5 with three strikeouts against Uehara in his career.
Both starters threw gems in this one, only to be left with no-decisions. Boston’s Wade Miley took a no-hitter into the seventh before Kole Calhoun doubled. He pitched scoreless ball into the eighth. The Angels’ C.J. Wilson completed eight scoreless despite never turning in a one-two-three inning. The win ended up going to Joe Smith, who pitched a scoreless ninth for the Angels.
With the homer, Trout moved into a tie with the injured Giancarlo Stanton for the major league lead at 27. He also leads the majors with 70 runs scored.
Filling in for the injured Miguel Montero, Kyle Schwarber had three hits Friday in his return to the majors, but he also committed two errors in the Cubs’ 4-2 loss to the Braves.
Schwarber’s first error came a Nick Markakis steal in the bottom of the first, with his throw going to the outfield and allowing Markakis to take third. It was just Markakis’s second steal attempt in 89 games this season. He came around to score on Kelly Johnson’s single.
The other error came on catcher’s interference in the sixth, allowing Johnson to reach. Johnson didn’t go on to score.
Of course, the Cubs well know than Schwarber’s bat is well ahead of his glove. He had more than a third of the Cubs’ seven hits on the night, including their lone extra-base hit, a double off Julio Teheran in the fifth. Unfortunately, that came immediately after Dexter Fowler grounded into a double play, leaving no one on base.
The Cubs don’t believe Schwarber is ready to be an everyday catcher right now, which is why they’re carrying three backstops in Montero’s absence. However, they also haven’t given Schwarber a single inning in the outfield at any level this year, suggesting that Schwarber won’t contribute as more than a pinch-hitter when he doesn’t start at catcher. They still might want to change their minds about that one and start having Schwarber work out in left. If could take away from his practice time behind the plate, but Schwarber’s bat can be a big help to the team this year, even after Montero returns.