I haven’t chimed in much on the leadoff situation, perhaps the biggest hot-button topic since the Chase Utley / Placido Polanco platoon.
The debate is a little tedious for me. The bottom line is the Phillies would produce more runs if they generated more extra base hits and homers. As long as those numbers stay among the lowest in baseball, swapping leadoff men won’t matter a great deal.
Very few people besides Charlie Manuel are satisfied with Jimmy Rollins as the leadoff hitter. One solution brought up time and again involves sliding Bobby Abreu up to bat first and moving Rollins between Mike Lieberthal and David Bell to break up the Black Hole. Bill Conlin championed this idea two weeks ago on Daily News Live.
Opponents say it removes a power threat from the middle of the order, but the simple fact is Abreu hasn’t been much of a slugger lately, and has never been a power hitter in the month of September.
Taking a look at the last three Septembers (2002 through 2004), he averages two homers and 12 RBIs a season, the lowest month-by-month totals by a landslide.
However, his .457 on-base percentage during this month is well-above normal, 46 points higher than his career average.
There’s no player in baseball quite like Abreu. He’s fifth in the league in OBP (.406), second in walks (96) and sixth in stolen bases (27), yet he's locked into the leadoff spot. The team leans on him for power, but he’s always been a streaky slugger, including 11 homers in May and only 11 the rest of the season.
He has his share of detractors for taking pitches when he should be swinging, but stat heads point to his steady combination of on-base percentage, speed and power and label him the perfect package.
Is it too late to fuss with the lineup, and will it make a difference? I’m not sure, but the numbers make the answer pretty obvious: Abreu would be a better option to lead off a ballgame than Rollins. Move him to the No. 1 spot, and it still leaves three good sluggers - Chase Utley, Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard - for the thumping 3-5 spots.
Imagine a guy that would actually make the pitcher work right out of the shoot, someone with the ability to pop one if he made a mistake and cause a disturbance on the bases following a leadoff walk.
In the right city, Abreu could be one of the great catalysts in the sport.
Why not make it Philadelphia?