No, that’s not a new Matt Damon/Jason Bourne movie. It’s the story of Walt Jocketty’s probably-fruitless search for a leadoff hitter this offseason. Friend of the Nation Mark Sheldon has a story about it here; in the piece, he identifies the two likely candidates for the leadoff position in 2011:
“We haven’t found anybody available that is to our liking,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said at the Winter Meetings in Florida. “We’ll keep pursuing it, but I don’t see anything developing.”
That means the role could belong to one of two players already in house who did the bulk of leading off last season — Brandon Phillips or Drew Stubbs. Answering which one is the best suited is difficult because neither fulfill the ideal of a prototypical leadoff hitter.
Reds hitters batting in the No. 1 spot combined to hit .244 with a .306 on-base percentage and 26 steals last season, which is not sterling production. Both Phillips and Stubbs had better overall numbers than their numbers as a leadoff hitter.
Phillips batted .275 with a career-best .332 on-base percentage in 155 games overall in 2010, but he was at .251 with a .303 OBP in 72 games batting first. He also stole 16 bases while being caught 12 times.
In a perfect world, Stubbs would represent more of an ideal leadoff man because of his speed. Last season, he had 30 steals and was caught just six times. In 155 games, the 26-year-old batted .255 with 22 homers, 77 RBIs, 55 walks and a .329 on-base percentage.
Mercifully, Sheldon didn’t mention Orlando Cabrera’s horrid numbers from the leadoff spot (nor the fact that Dusty Baker hit him leadoff in roughly a quarter of Cincinnati’s games last year). Overall, Reds leadoff hitters posted a miserable .306 OBP in 2010. Ugh.
Clearly, Drew Stubbs is the better choice for leadoff, and it really isn’t close, in my opinion. Did you know that Stubbs got on base at a .393 clip in the last two months of 2010? Now, he isn’t going to put up that rate for an entire season, but I am hopeful that he can put up something in the neighborhood of his minor league OBP, which was .364. That would certainly be adequate.
Then again, I had a conversation with Jared Rollins via Twitter last night about the possibility of Stubbs hitting cleanup, a la Eric Davis. We were just thinking out loud, and I don’t think it will happen, but I do think Stubbs could handle it.