Earlier tonight, we were wondering if Dusty Baker has always batted a lousy (but fast!) CF in the leadoff spot, or if that was some special torture he dreamed up for Reds fans.

I ran through the history of Dusty Leadoff Men, and found that – yeah, he almost always bats his CF first.  In 16 seasons (counting this one), Dusty’s CF has been his most common leadoff man (or nearly so) 13 times.  One other season, he had 3b David Bell(?) leading off (along with Tom Goodwin) until the Giants acquired Kenny Lofton to lead off and play CF – something you can’t criticize.

What really convinces me that this is Dusty’s default lineup configuration is that he sticks with it, whether his CF is good or bad at getting on base.

Here’s a breakdown of the leadoff and #2 OBP for all of Dusty’s teams, along with where the leadoff man ranked, compared to the rest of the lineup.  For example, the 1993 Giants’ leadoff hitters had a worse OBP than any other hitter’s spot in the lineup.

You can see that Dusty shows no regard whatsoever for putting good OBP at the top of his lineup.  Only 3 times (of 16) has a Baker team gotten top 3 OBP performance from their leadoff man.  And his respect for the #2 spot is no better.

The odd thing is I can’t ascertain any pattern – that ’93 team won 103 games and the 02 squad won pennants – both with atrocious leadoff hitting.  Meanwhile, the same nonsense fails for the Reds.  Maybe we just need an enhanced Barry Bonds.

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Year Team #1 #2 #1 Rank Win %
1993 SF .301 .356 8 .636 Darren Lewis was the most common leadoff man (101 times): .302 OBP
1994 SF .343 .313 3 .478 Lewis .340
1995 SF .316 .320 6 .465 Lewis .303 when traded to CIN; replaced by Deion Sanders .296 when acquired – .346 for Dusty
1996 SF .324 .346 4 .420 Marvin Benard .333
1997 SF .342 .337 5 .556 Darryl Hamilton .354
1998 SF .392 .377 2 .546 Hamilton .393 when traded away; then Benard .396
1999 SF .368 .369 4 .531 Benard .359
2000 SF .341 .334 7 .599 Benard .342
2001 SF .315 .367 7 .556 Benard .320 and Calvin Murray .319
2002 SF .326 .305 6 .590 David Bell (3b) .333; Kenny Lofton .353 for SF; Tom Goodwin .321; The atrocious Tsuyosi Shinjo .294 was his CF – and he STILL led off 14 times in April.
2003 CHI .348 .342 2 .543 Mark Grudzielanek (2b) .366 and Goodwin .328; then Lofton .333 when acquired, .388 for CHI
2004 CHI .329 .320 6 .549 Todd Walker .352; then COREY PATTERSON .320
2005 CHI .299 .314 8 .488 Jerry Hairson (2b/LF) .336; Patterson .254(!!!); Neifi Perez .298(!!!); and Matt Lawton .380 when acquired, .289 for CHI. That’s SIXTY-FIVE starts to guys w/ <.300 OBP.
2006 CHI .329 .319 4 .407 Juan Pierre .330
2008 CIN .326 .305 7 .457 Patterson .238 (!!!). But actually, JHJ (.384 overall OBP) actually ended up with the most starts, and had a .427(!!) OBP when leading off. Corey’s was .217 in the #1 hole.
2009 CIN .273 .305 8 .450 WILLY! .279(!)

10 Responses

  1. Kurt Frost

    Basically what you are saying is the man is a moron and some of his teams won despite his being the manager.

  2. dan

    This is amazing, great post. I wonder where Dusty picked up this idea. Did one of his managers do this while he was a player?

    One thing this definitely tells us is that as long as we have Dusty, whoever plays CF will be leading off regardless of how incredibly crappy they are. Old habits die hard.

  3. doktor

    Dan @4, yes you have it correct that the rank is relative to the lineup. Also, besides having CF almost always leadoff and some middle infielder bat 2nd, Dusty usually had some juiced power hitting OF to compensate for his “managing style”. i am coming to the conclusion those teams won in spite of Dusty’s “efforts” because they were so talented or had abilities “beyond normal men” (see bonds/sosa)

    Go (2010) Reds(Dustyless)

  4. per14

    You know, this kind of confirms what I’ve been thinking: Dusty is an idiot, but I think a “bigger” problem is that he has this idea of how a baseball team should work and he basically tries to conform (or outright force) the team he actually he has into this “perfect”, ideal baseball team. He visualizes Plato’s form of how a baseball team mechanically operates, and gosh darnit, that’s how his team is going to be operated, even if the result is atrocious. In his mind, the ideal baseball team has a speedy CF batting leadoff. A speedy, “crafty” middle infielder batting second. The catcher bats 8th. The starters work themselves out of jams. The hit and run works. Etc, etc.

    Basically, I think Dusty believes that if you keep forcing your team into the ideal team, then eventually, your team will magically transform into the ideal baseball team.

  5. per14

    Frankly, Hanigan has been screaming he’s a leadoff hitter all season long, but he’s a catcher, so Dusty can’t even CONCEIVE of batting him lead-off.

  6. CG Hudson

    “The odd thing is I can’t ascertain any pattern – that ‘93 team won 103 games and the 02 squad won pennants – both with atrocious leadoff hitting. Meanwhile, the same nonsense fails for the Reds. Maybe we just need an enhanced Barry Bonds.”

    It pains me as much as the next guy to watch Willy bat lead off but it’s been pretty much settled that batting order just doesn’t matter that much. The bigger problem is that Willy is batting at all, not where he’s batting. And yes; a pre- or post-roid Barry would help. Alot.

  7. Garrett Hawk

    It should be noted Dusty’s 103-win 1993 Giants did NOT make the playoffs…they lost out to the Braves.

    By one game.
    Do you think his idea of giving the worst guy in the lineup the most at bats cost him at least one game? Methinks yes.