Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Debate: Who is game's best leadoff hitter?
By David Schoenfield
With Mike Trout currently batting second for the Angels, Eric Karabell wondered: Who is the game's best leadoff hitter right now? Time for a quick debate!
Eric: Austin Jackson
I'll go with Detroit Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson. He's not off to the flashiest start, not like Shin-Soo Choo, Jose Altuve or Carl Crawford, but Jackson has the brightest future, as he does just fine getting on base, running a bit, scoring many runs. Leaving out the part about Jackson's elite ability defensively, at the plate he brings speed, power and durability to the leadoff role, but what I like best is he continues to grow as a hitter. Last season Jackson cut quite a bit into his strikeout rate and walked more, and while it didn't get noticed because of what Trout accomplished, Jackson was probably the second-best leadoff option in the game. Now that Trout is hitting second in the lineup, Jackson is first. He's 26 and getting better.
Dave: Shin-Soo Choo
The Cincinnati Reds center fielder is off to a stunning start, getting on base more than Joey Votto (his .521 OBP leads the majors, thanks in part to an amazing nine hit by pitches already) and adding some power (three homers, six doubles). It's no fluke, of course: Choo has a career .385 OBP and he thrived after moving to the leadoff spot last year in Cleveland. And while he's not known as a burner, he's averaged 19 steals over the past four seasons. The question with him is how he does against left-handers. So far, so good (OBP over .400), but last year he had just a .318 OBP. If we're talking all-around game, sure, I'll take Jackson and his terrific glove over Choo and his questionable range. But for pure leadoff skills, Choo is my guy.
What do you think?