Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Corey Leading Off
2005-01-22 15:47
by alex ciepley

Corey Patterson chats about Dusty Baker's early-bird decision to bat him leadoff.

"As a team we don't have great speed, and if I can get on base as the leadoff man, I can have a lot of stolen bases and get in scoring position. That would be great."
Corey's 100% correct. He needs to get on base in order to use his speed. If he doesn't get on, he not only can't steal second or third, but he's not doing his job as a leadoff hitter.

Some readers may be surprised at this, but I really like speedy players. They add a certain tension to the game when they're on that tickles my fancy.

And there's no disputing that Patterson is the Cubs' most exciting (and pretty much only) base stealer. He's also exceptionally successful. For his career, he's 71 for 89 in steal attempts, an 80% success rate. Anything above 70% is considered good, and he's well above that mark. Having watched lots of Cubs games, I'm also pretty sure that a decent number of his "caught stealings" are due to being picked off first--his one problem in the base-stealing department--so his rate of being thrown out at second is probably even better.

As an aside, does anyone know where to find caught stealing numbers broken out between "thrown out"s and "picked off"s? It'd be mighty handy.

Despite Corey's prowess on the basepaths, I still think he's much more suited to hitting down in the order. He's a little guy, but he's a little guy with a good deal of pop. A lot of Cubs fan tend to think that Corey should just concentrate on being speedy and not "something that he's not", but that's silly talk. Corey has legitimate power and he should use it.

I'd rather have Corey hitting with people on base than being the guy who's supposed to get on base, simply because he hasn't fared well at the latter task to this point in his career.

That said, batting orders are overanalyzed and overscrutinized six ways to Sunday. I wrote a bit about it last year (over at my old blog, Ball Talk), when I used a run simulator to see the effects of moving Alex Gonzalez down and Derrek Lee up in the proposed batting order. After "optimizing" the lineup, I concluded:

This new-fangled order only produced marginal gains: 765 runs per season, and almost all of these gains come from moving Lee up in the order. An improvement of 7 runs is worth noting, but it isn't going to single-handedly solve the Cubs' problems. As has been discussed several times by analyst Rob Neyer, what's important isn't where you bat your hitters, but who you put in the lineup to begin with.
This has been hashed and rehashed time and again by those who have studied it (Jay Jaffe just wrote about it a couple days ago), but lineup order just doesn't matter that much in the long run. Please feel free to remind me of this when I inevitably moan throughout the year that so-and-so shouldn't be hitting where they are.

Though of course, when Neifi!'s starting, all bets are off.

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