Last week, it was reported that Indians manager Terry Francona was considering batting DH Carlos Santana in the leadoff spot. After the Indians’ analytics department studied the suggestion, Francona has opted against it, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports.
“I thought, statistically,” Francona said, “it would really lean more towards him like [a leadoff man] than maybe even I thought, and it really didn’t. I don’t think it was a bad idea, but I don’t think it was like a runaway, ‘Oh, you’ve got to do this.’ Some of the power numbers may be where you’re maybe losing out by doing that a little bit, but I still think his on-base is [good]. But, you know what? You get on base anywhere. It’s never going to hurt.”
Santana, a switch-hitter, doesn’t bat for a high average — just .231 in each of the last two seasons — but he draws a lot of walks, which helps him maintain a solidly above-average on-base percentage. He led all of baseball in walks with 113 in 2014 and hasn’t posted an OBP below .350 since becoming a regular in 2011. The American League average OBP over that period of time, in aggregate, was .318.
A typical lineup prefers a faster runner in the leadoff spot, like Francisco Lindor or Jason Kipnis, so first-and-third situations can be set up or runners can score from second base. Additionally, few leadoff hitters have Santana’s penchant for power, as managers usually like to hit their power bats in the third, fourth, and fifth spots in the batting order. Still, kudos to Francona for thinking outside of the box.