San Diego Padres Leadoff Hitters' Shuffling Act
With all of the trends and figures measured in major league baseball, one occurrence that is often overlooked remains constant: Good hitting is contagious.
Leadoff hitters are penciled in atop lineups to serve as catalysts and are expected to reach base, view multiple pitches, steal bases, and ultimately score runs.
With one week down and 21 more to go, it is safe to say the Padres are not set on a designated leadoff hitter quite yet.
Frankly, the Friars leadoff men have not made it easy on manager Bud Black to pencil in a permanent fixture in the first line of duty.
How does a collective 2-for-30 (.067 avg.) through the first seven games sound?
First it was Tony Gwynn for two games, then Everth Cabrera. On Friday, the Padres had already used their third different leadoff hitter in 2010, Jerry Hairston.
The musical chairs atop the Padres lineup continued for the final two games in the Rockies series, with Bud Black again flip-flopping Gwynn and Cabrera.
Cabrera got the nod in Monday's 17-2 outburst over Atlanta, but went only 1-for-6 at the plate. Yet, in the Padres' first two wins Cabrera was the spark. Oddly enough, his production has come out of the eighth spot in the batting order, going 5-for-10 with five RBI in the two other victories.
To make matters even more complex, one cannot look back to last season for a gauge as to which way Black may be leaning.
Cabrera and Gwynn each made 57 starts batting leadoff.
The Padres used eight different players in the leadoff spot in 2009, though outfielders Will Venable and Drew Macias only received one start there. Scott Hairston got 10 starts where he hit leadoff before he was traded to Oakland on July 5. David Eckstein received eight starts there and Jody Gerut was penciled in 10 times before he was traded to Milwaukee. Lastly, now retired outfielder Brian Giles got 14 starts at the top of the order.
It does not seem to be a case of Black trying to find the best leadoff hitter of the bunch, but more a function of playing matchups.
From an optimistic standpoint, the Friars have several players on the 25-man roster with interchangeable, leadoff hitting skill-set qualities.
From a realist standpoint, the shuffling act likely will not lead to contagious hitting. A permanent fixture atop the Friar lineup is necessary for a much needed allergic reaction.
At the end of the day, it can be assured that Black will be fine with Cabrera going 1-for-6 if his club continues to put up 17 runs a game.
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