Monday, February 16, 2009

Why Soriano will stay the leadoff hitter

Ever since his arrival in Chicago Alfonso Soriano has been public enemy number one. I don't think I've ever seen a more polarizing player in my time rooting for the Cubs. Everybody has an opinion on him, some of us believe he is a very valuable part of the team and are perfectly fine with him being the leadoff hitter. The other group thinks Soriano hitting leadoff is the worst thing that has ever happened to baseball, and that his at-bats make baseball a little worse with every swing.

I'm fully in the Soriano is good, let him hit leadoff group. So far the results have been pretty good, two division titles in his two years on the team. He has had some health issues, which have been rather annoying, but when he is in the game and hitting leadoff the Cubs have a great record and are a better team. Honestly if there were a better leadoff option on the team I would be more than willing to consider him. If Brian Roberts or Ichiro were on the Cubs, then Soriano would hit lower in the order. Since a guy like that isn't on the team, Soriano is the best option. For the sake of argument I'll take a look at some of the names I've heard people mention as better in-house options.

Ryan Theriot
This is the name I hear the most, and quite honestly its not a great idea. I'll admit that Theriot is my least favorite player on the team now that Matt Murton is gone. I know a lot of people look at his batting average and OBP and think LEADOFF GUY! The problem I have with Theriot leading off is I'm not convinced he is as good a hitter as everyone thinks. His numbers have fallen off as the season gets late the last two years, he hits way too many singles and isn't even remotely a threat to steal a base. Lou has said he likes the idea of Theriot hitting 8th, and I agree thats where he is best suited. I think over the course of a full season Soriano batting leadoff and Theriot hitting 8th will make for a more productive lineup.

Kosuke Fukudome
Lou has mentioned him as a possibility, and if he were the player that he was for the first six weeks of last season then I would understand hitting him first. The problem is I think he is much closer to being the player we saw most of last season. A .250 hitter who can play some defense and every once in a great while have a good day at the plate. I honestly expect him to play about 3 times a week while splitting time with Joey Gathright and Reed Mantle. This means he will either hit second or seventh when he plays.

Mike Fontenot
Fontenot was brought up in the system as a potential leadoff guy so I can understand why Lou might want to try him out. Greg has more detail about Fontenot later on, but I'll just say that maybe a year or two down the line if he proves he is a solid major league hitter, Fontenot might be the guy to leadoff, just not yet.

Aaron Miles
No. I would prefer that Miles stays far far far far away from the Cubs, but since he is here I can hope he is only used once or twice a week.

Bottom line is that Soriano is the best option right now to leadoff. He is far from the perfect leadoff guy, but based on his competition he is the ultimate choice.

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