Leadoff Hitter: Give Pence A Shot
September 21, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro (19) is congratulated by right fielder Hunter Pence (8, right) for scoring during the fifth inning against the San Diego Padres at AT
Marco Scutaro seems like the perfect candidate to hit leadoff in lieu of a healthy Angel Pagan or productive Gregor Blanco. He hits over .300, has a .361 OBP, doesn’t strike out, and has some of the best plate awareness in the game. But if we take a closer look at the numbers a different picture begins to appear.
Jul 12, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro (19) hits an RBI single during the seventh inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
When leading off an inning, Scutaro hits just .254 and his OBP drops to .313 in 64 plate appearances this season. With men on base his average rises to .292 with a OBP of .362 (171 PA).
While Scutaro has experience in the leadoff spot, it is not maximizing his current skill set — or numbers– to continue to hit him there. Can he succeed leading off? Yes of course, but this team needs a spark at the top of the lineup — something missing since Angel Pagan went down after his inside-the-park walk-off HR. Something Hunter Pence can provide.
When Pence leads off an inning he is hitting .324 and his OBP is .364 in 118 plate appearances. With men on base his average falls to .242 and his OBP falls to .282. in 223 PA; exactly opposite of what Scutaro is doing in 2013.
How many times have we seen Pence hit a slow chopper to extend an inning? The man gets on with his speed, seemingly once every game. When on the basepaths Pence is a cool 17 for 17 in the steals department. He can put himself in scoring position, and then you have Scutaro, Posey, Pablo, and — insert Belt/Pill here. Not a lot of consistency driving in runs throughout the lineup in 2013, but with more chances with Pence on base maybe that can improve.
August 5, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8, left) scores on a RBI-single by left fielder Jeff Francoeur (23, not pictured) against Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (20, right) during the eighth inning at AT
Perhaps therein lies the problem: Pence can hit for power. Pence has 14 HR’s and provides the punch the 3-4-5-6 spot in the lineup needs. But 11 of those are solo shots, and 5 have come while leading off an inning, more numbers that point to the possibility that Pence could be the answer at the top of the lineup.
There is really no reason to not give Hunter Pence a shot at leading off. Blanco and Andres Torres have been terrible in that spot, and Scutaro is hitting just .224 in 37 games since June 20th. Pence can get on, steal a base, and give the guys behind him a shot to drive him in — without having to sacrifice an out by bunting him over.
Runs are hard to come by in 2013, so put the always-charged-up Pence at leadoff and see what he can do. Let him set the tone early and challenge the rest of the lineup to come through. Put these guys in spots where they are currently best suited to succeed and help the ballclub the last 50 games of the season. At the very least, maybe Pence’s speed will create a few more runs here and there and the Giants can finish on a positive note.