One of the big storylines of the season so far for the Minnesota Twins has been the offense. Ranked near the bottom in the American League in almost every category, the offense has sputtered like a motor running out of gas for the duration of this short season. There have been signs of the offense waking up, but then when you think that it was going to last, the offense then seemingly takes a step back.
Manager Paul Molitor has tried various lineups in hopes of getting the offense jump started. However, none seems to do the trick. Molitor has even admitted this past weekend to writing a lineup with Joe Mauer leading off.
On the surface it sounds like a good idea -- Mauer has a high on-base percentage in his career of .401, and .392 on the season. You want your leadoff man to get on base anyway possible, whether it’s a hit or a walk, having a high on-base percentage is so important for a leadoff hitter.
However, the thing that isn’t in favor of Mauer being a leadoff hitter is the fact that he’s stolen only 46 bases in his career with the highest season total being 13 back in 2005, something he’s not come close to since. The highest number of stolen bases he’s had since then is 8 in 2006 and in 2012. Last season, when he spent some time on the Disabled List, Mauer had 3 stolen bases.
Another thing that isn’t in favor of putting Mauer in the leadoff spot his the fact that he has a high slugging percentage. On his career, his slugging percentage is .458. On the season, Mauer has a slugging percentage of .373.
A slugging percentage is his total number of bases (excluding walks) divided by the number of at bats. The way I like to look at it, a slugging percentage tells you what type of hitter a player is every time he gets a hit. The higher the slugging percentage, the more extra base hits.
You might now be asking, “If Mauer has a high slugging percentage, wouldn’t it make more sense to have him bat leadoff since he’s more likely to be in scoring position when he gets a hit?”
It certainly does sound logical. However, Mauer is currently leading the team in RBIs with 9. He had three hits in five at bats with three RBIs, driving in two runs on a triple in the top of the eleventh, giving the Twins a 4-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners this past Sunday. If Mauer were to bat leadoff, he would be deprived of opportunities to drive in runs one less at bat per game since there would be no one on base when the Twins come to bat in the first inning.
Since Mauer seems to be starting to provide some offense from his usual number 3 spot in the lineup and since Danny Santana is struggling in the leadoff spot, I think we need to find someone else to bat leadoff.
From a statistical perspective, I would suggest that Shane Robinson should be that man. Granted, he only has a small sample size, having played in 13 games. In the games he’s played, Robinson has a batting line of .355/.394/.387 with 5 RBIs, 8 runs scored and 2 stolen bases. Most of the games he has played, he’s usually batted in the ninth spot in the lineup.
If Robinson were to play every day and bat leadoff, it would be one more at bat that could lead to more offense given the fact he has a high on-base percentage so far this season. It would provide hitters such as Mauer with more opportunities to drive in more runs with Robinson as the leadoff hitter. Plus, Robinson can steal some bases which means that he would be in scoring position more often, making it easier for the hitters in front of him to drive him in. This would help the offense, taking the pressure off of some of the other struggling hitters which would help with their production at the plate.
Photos courtesy of: Keith Allison