Is George Springer the New Houston Astros Leadoff Hitter?
Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch was trying to shake things up prior to last night’s 13 inning win, or he was told to switch a few hitters around in the order. The Astros make decisions based on what the stats say, so I wouldn’t put it past the front office to suggest the change to the manager. Maybe it was a hunch by Hinch, but whoever’s idea it was, for one night at least, it worked.
I went to the game with Jeremy Booth of Program 15 player development, and he believes that Jose Altuve is a true leadoff hitter. He suggested that any move that should be made would be to move Carlos Correa to the second spot, in between Altuve leading off and George Springer hitting third similar to what the Orioles are doing with Manny Machado.
The Astros have decided to go a different route after Altuve has leadoff every game that he has started this season. Last night marked the second time that Springer has batted leadoff after hitting second for 44 times so far in 2016. His first time was on a rare Altuve off day where he went 0-4 with a walk and two strikeouts.
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In 212 career plate appearances batting leadoff, Springer has a .290/ .374/ .441/ .815 slash line, which is better than his slash line at any other spot in the batting order. I always refer to Springer as the spark plug to the Astros offense, now he has the chance to set the tone for the game. While Altuve may be the best leadoff hitter, for some reason Springer tends to hit better batting first.
Whether the decision was made by Luhnow or Hinch or both, it is a little surprising that they would make this move with the chance that Altuve has the chance to chase Craig Biggio‘s leadoff home run records. This is a good sign that the Astros are more focused on what is better for the team and not for individual accomplishments.
Last night, Springer was the spark plug that kept the Astros in the game as he went 3-4 with a double and two walks. Unfortunately, the Astros did not capitalize on Springer reaching base five times with Altuve, Correa, and Colby Rasmus/Jake Marisnick going hitless until Correa’s game-winning hit in the bottom of the 13th.
Altuve is just in a little rough spell, and history suggests that he will break out of it soon. Correa should start hitting like he is supposed to hit, which will hopefully lead to Springer scoring many runs this season. Putting the contact bat behind Springer might be a very good idea, even if Altuve is more suited for leadoff.
The Astros have a steep hill to climb to reach .500 even much less the playoffs this year, but if the Astros can get a boost with Springer leading off, I’m all for it. Let’s see how game 3 of Springer leading off goes tonight or whenever it happens again.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***