Because the centerfielder has to leadoff
With spring training underway there has been a flood of news bubbling up from Lakeland (and of course there are those pesky Johnny Damon rumors). But one that caught my eye was Jim Leyland’s dismissal of Scott Sizemore as the number two hitter. Somewhat understandably I suppose he doesn’t want rookies batting in the top two spots . But why pencil in Austin Jackson as the leadoff hitter in the first place?
Jackson certainly has a number of tools and is deservedly ranked on many top 100 prospect lists. Plate discipline hasn’t been one of those strengths though. He has a respectable .356 OBP as a minor leaguer, but he also fanned 2.3 times for every walk he took.
Sizemore’s greatest asset is his bat. He has maintained a .383 OBP throughout his minor league career supported by a .305 batting average and drawing walks in 13% of his plate appearances. His K/BB ratio is 1.3.
I won’t pretend to know who will have the better season and who will adjust quicker to big league pitching. But based on all the available data it would point to Sizemore having the better chance at putting up at least a league average on base percentage. The difference though in Jim Leyland’s mind is that Jackson plays center and accordingly he should hit leadoff so he can make things happen.
I couch this all in the fact that I don’t really believe lineups make that big of a difference, and Leyland’s quotes on pitcher and catcher reporting day probably mean even less. But it a suspicious thought process where Jackson has the leadoff spot to lose while Sizemore is pushed to the lower rungs of the lineup.
Photo Credit: Roger DeWitt (hueytaxi on Flickr)