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Wednesday, April 14, 2010
1st pitch: The leadoff hole

By Jeremy Lundblad, ESPN Stats & Info

Today’s Trivia: Happy Birthday to the 1995 Atlanta Braves. Well, three of them at least. Greg Maddux, David Justice and Steve Avery were all born on April 14. Maddux posted an NL-best 1.63 ERA in 1995. Can you name the two other pitchers on that team that won an ERA title at some point in their career?

Quick Hits: April has not been kind to leadoff hitters thus far, a trend spotted by Baseball Tonight researcher Mark Simon. With the obligatory acknowledgement that we are only 10 days into the season, let’s take a look at the hole at the top spot in the order.

* Apparently, leadoff is the new seventh. Leadoff batters are hitting .249 with an OBP of .316. Meanwhile, the seventh spot is a collective .250 with an OBP of .316

* The No. 1 hitter in the Texas Rangers lineup is 1-28 with no walks. Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mike Leake had more hits than that in his MLB debut. The No. 1 hitter for the Braves is 2-29. Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Edwin Jackson had two hits in an inning.

* The primary culprits have been Julio Borbon (1-25), Melky Cabrera (2-26), and a pair of Padres: Everth Cabrera (1-15) and Tony Gwynn, Jr. (1-11).

* In all, ten teams are hitting under .200 from the top spot in the order.

* Thirteen No. 1 hitters have an on-base percentage below .200 (minimum 15 PA)

* Though Carlos Gonzalez has the highest leadoff average (.393), Jimmy Rollins has arguably been the most productive leadoff hitter thus far. He’s hitting .391 with a .516 on-base percentage. The catch? Rollins appears on his way to the disabled list. Shane Victorino, his likely replacement atop the lineup, is a career .227 hitter from the top spot.

Key Matchups: Bobby Abreu has nine career home runs against Javier Vazquez, which is five more than he has against any other pitcher. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Elias Sports Bureau unearthed a fascinating element to their head-to-head history. Abreu has three multi-homer games against Vazquez, making him the first to do that against one pitcher since Willie McCovey against Bob Buhl.

Looking to guide the Astros to their first win, Brett Myers is 4-2 in his career against the Cardinals. However, the current Cardinals lineup might indicate a different story. Six Cardinals regulars have faced Myers before, and they’ve combined to hit .392 with nine home runs in just 79 at-bats. For once Albert Pujols is bringing down the rest of the group. He is a .310 hitter against Myers with “only” two homers in 29 at-bats.

Today’s Leaderboard: Five players that have made at least 20 plate appearances have yet to strikeout this season. The most surprising would have to be Ivan Rodriguez, who fanned 92 times last season. With one strikeout in 34 PA, Chase Utley just missed the list. He had 110 strikeouts last season.

Trivia Answer: If you guessed Tom Glavine and John Smoltz... sorry, they never led the league in ERA. Alejandro Pena (1984) and Jason Schmidt (2003) would be the correct answers.