Reds only hurting themselves batting Billy Hamilton ninth

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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.

Clayton Kershaw to make Opening Day start for Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw Opening Day
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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed it in March and he confirmed it again on Tuesday: Clayton Kershaw will start on Opening Day, Jorge Castillo of The Los Angeles Times reports.

The Dodgers are one of four teams that will open the 60-game regular season schedule on July 23; everyone else begins play on the 24th. With a 10 PM ET start, the Dodgers will host the Giants at Dodger Stadium.

Johnny Cueto will likely pitch opposite Kershaw for the Giants. Cueto was named the Giants’ Opening Day starter on March 11, before the league shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Manager Gabe Kapler hasn’t yet officially named an Opening Day starter for the makeshift season.

Kershaw, 32, made the Opening Day start eight consecutive times for the Dodgers from 2011-18. Hyun-Jin Ryu, now a Blue Jay, pitched on Opening Day last season for the Dodgers. Last year, Kershaw logged 178 1/3 innings over 28 starts and one relief appearance, his highest innings total since 2015. He went 16-5 with a 3.03 ERA, 189 strikeouts, and 41 walks.