Why Not Leadoff With Manny Ramirez?
It doesn’t matter where I hit. I’m Manny Ramirez, so it doesn’t matter.” – Manny Ramirez on MLB.com (Ian Browne, 05/15/2005)
Rays manager Joe Maddon had new offensive weapon Manny Ramirez in the leadoff spot yesterday to get him at-bats in early before the weekend. This launched a run of jokes and actual misunderstandings about what a leadoff hitter should be when it was announced.
A lot of tweets joking about Manny’s ability to bunt for hits and steal bases were made, and it got me realizing that a lot of people do not understand what a leadoff hitter should be.
This same kind of thing happened last year when Maddon decided to bat John Jaso in the leadoff spot. You would have thought people actually believed that Joe Maddon lost his mind and needed to find it. Maddon proved to be correct when Jaso finished the season leading all players with a .380 OBP from the leadoff spot.
In a twitter conversation with R.J. Anderson and a few others there does appear to be growing concern among some that Jaso could see some regression if he does not learn to hit for higher than a .270 AVG that is loaded with mostly singles. If he cannot then Major League pitchers will catch on and do nothing but throw him strikes, forcing his hand at putting more balls in play (career .281 BABIP) and reducing his walk rates, which he lives by. If this happens he may be dropped to the bottom of the Rays order.
B.J. Upton has the leadoff spot against left-handers secured but struggled mightily against right-handers. So who will leadoff against right-handers if Jaso does regress? Ben Zobrist is a great option but why not Manny?
Over the past three seasons Manny Ramirez has posted a .428 OBP against right-handed pitchers as opposed to a .396 OBP against left-handers, not that there is anything wrong with that. Last year was his worst of the three seasons and he still posted a .404 OBP against RHPs.
Many’s power is on the decline with his ISO going from .270-to-.241-to-.162 from 2008-2010. Why not utilize his best weapon right now? Contrary to popular belief and what Mitch Williams may say on MLB Network, the leadoff spot is not reserved for speedy slap hitters who force the thirdbaseman in because their bunt is more potent a weapon than their power. The leadoff spot is meant to give high percentage on-base players a spot where he can get the most chances to get on-base.
Maddon’s decision to bat Manny leadoff was said to get him early at-bats but who knows, maybe we will see Manny bat there in the regular? If there is a manager out there that will bunk conventional wisdom it’s Joe Maddon and Manny was right in 2005, it doesn’t matter where he hits, and that includes leadoff.