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January 2 2007

The world may never know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, but I wouldn't hold my breath for consensus on whether Jimmy Rollins is a good leadoff hitter or not either.

Part of the problem, maybe the biggest part, with talking about whether a guy is a good leadoff hitter or not is that not everybody defines a good leadoff hitter the same way.  Is it a guy who scores a lot of runs?  Gets on base?  Just a good hitter whose team chooses to hit him first in the order?

Here's a look at the NL players who got 400 or more plate appearances at the top of the order for their respective teams in 2006, ranked by their number of plate appearances as a #1 hitter:

 

Player PA P/PA R OBP OPS
J Rollins 739 3.70 125 338 822
J Pierre 736 3.48 85 333 725
R Furcal 715 3.84 112 372 823
J Reyes 699 3.60 121 354 844
A Soriano 610 3.85 102 368 956
H Ramirez 592 3.99 104 358 842
R Winn 587 3.47 78 325 728
D Roberts 560 3.94 79 359 753
D Eckstein 547 3.76 68 351 698
M Giles 528 3.90 73 334 695
R Freel 493 4.08 61 359 758
J Carroll 424 4.28 70 372 779

Of this group, Rollins is first in runs, ninth in on-base percentage and pitches seen per plate appearance and fifth in OPS.  The 125 runs are outstanding, but they in part reflect the tremendous production of the Phillies offense overall as well as things like the Phillies' number two hitters ability to avoid hitting into double-plays.  One could argue that they also reflect other skills by Rollins that have nothing to do with hitting like stealing and running the bases.

Regardless of what criteria you use, I think it's hard to argue that anyone besides Soriano was the best hitter of the group.  Soriano on-based .368 while batting #1 in the lineup but just .351 of the season overall.  The other spot where he saw significant playing time for the Nationals was at #3 in the order, and while batting third he hit just 153/235/333 in 72 at-bats.  The fact that Soriano is the best hitter of the group only further complicates the issue.  Many would argue that hitting Soriano and his 46 home runs last season in the leadoff spot for much of the year was a terrible decision.

I don't even know if there's anyone out there arguing about this kind of thing.  But if there is, I'm pretty sure nobody is going to win the argument unless all of the participants have some kind of consensus about what exactly it means to be a good leadoff hitter.

Phillies and the Rangers in the World Series?  Probably not.

This article speculates the Reds may be a match for Chris Reitsma.

There's a review of the Phillies' offseason at the team's web site.

Ryan Howard may go with Leon Rose, Allen Iverson's agent.

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