If I were to tell you that a player had averaged 25 homers a year over five full seasons in the Major Leagues, where in the batting order would you place him?
What if I were to mention that, discounting one injury-marred season, he put up a .496 SLG with a .215 ISO in that time span? “Well,” you might be thinking, “I suppose it would depend on who else was on the team.”
What if I said that, even with his recent health problems, he is the team’s most reliable power hitter? Would there be any doubt in your mind that the player in question would not be a good fit for the leadoff spot?
Apparently there was for Eric Wedge, because Grady Sizemore has been the Cleveland Indians’ de facto leadoff hitter since 2005.
Luckily, that will change in 2010. At least, according to Manny Acta, whose first act as manager was to announce that Sizemore would be moved down to the No. 2 hole.
Until this week, I wasn’t terribly excited about Acta’s hiring. It’s not that I was a big fan of Mr. Wedge, or that I was skeptical about Acta’s managerial skills—I think I speak for a lot of Indians fans when I say I wasn’t sure there would be any tangible changes in the way the clubhouse was run.
But now—brothers and sisters, I tell you, I have seen the light. Short of benching Jhonny Peralta, this announcement was probably the best possible way for Acta to get on my good side. Don’t believe me? Moving Sizemore down in the order was first on my list of suggested New Year’s resolutions for the Indians.
Does Acta really care what some kid on the internet thinks about how he runs his team? Probably not—in fact, I hope not. But after years of whining about how the Indians have misused him, I can’t help but feel that this decision is a sign of better things to come.
Keeping Sizemore in the leadoff spot simply doesn’t make sense. His batting average has decreased steadily since 2006, from its peak at .290 to a miserable .248 last year. Sure, he walks a lot (he averaged 82 a year from 2005-08), but his lofty strikeout totals (average of 142) show that his high OBP (.372) is not the product of exceptional plate discipline.
In other words, he’s a three-true-outcomes player, in the style of Carlos Peña and Jack Cust. Tribe fans, would you want Russell Branyan hitting leadoff?
It’s a small decision—shuffling the lineup won’t lead to a playoff spot—but it’s a good one. And it shows that our new manager is willing to break with tradition in the name of progress.
We’ve seen a strong opening Acta. Let’s hope things still look good after intermission.