Friday, January 20, 2012
Angels vs. Rangers: leadoff men
By Mark Saxon
Ian Kinsler and Maicer Izturis bat leadoff, and that's about where the similarities end.
This is part of an occasional series comparing the rosters of the defending AL champion Texas Rangers and the rebuilt Angels, who could have the hottest rivalry in the league this year.
Neither team has the ideal leadoff hitter, but the Angels were -- and probably will be -- at a major disadvantage in setting the table for their big boppers. The two Angels who had the most at-bats leading off last year, Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar, had on-base percentages in the leadoff role of .340 and .320 respectively. Izturis was slightly above-average, in other words, and Aybar was well below the league average.
The Rangers' Ian Kinsler was an offensive force, but you wonder whether the Rangers would have scored even more runs had he hit deeper in their lineup. He hit 32 home runs and 31 doubles as a leadoff hitter, getting on base at a .356 rate. But largely because of his slot in the order, only six of those home runs and 11 of those doubles came with runners on.
Texas manager Ron Washington might want to consider using Elvis Andrus once again as his leadoff hitter as Andrus had a .419 on-base percentage in a handful of games batting first. That would allow Kinsler to hit in a more suitable role, maybe second or seventh, say. The problem for Washington isn't really a problem. He has so many powerful hitters, finding a suitable spot for Kinsler isn't easy.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia figures to experiment more and more with using his fastest player, Peter Bourjos, in the leadoff spot. If the Angels are lucky, he'll grow into the role along the lines of Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury, who was easily the league's best leadoff hitter last year. Ellsbury is four years older than Bourjos and the Angels center fielder was rapidly improving as a hitter, so Bourjos looks like a candidate to take over the role. One key difference, of course, is that Ellsbury has shown a much greater willingness to walk. His career on-base percentage of .354 is 52 points higher than Bourjos'.
If Bourjos shows he's not ready to hit first, the Angels always have top prospect Mike Trout standing by. If they can find a place for him, he just might lock down the leadoff spot for the next 10 or 15 years. For now, advantage Rangers.