George Springer, the Astros Leadoff Man
While the rest of the Astros lineup may be scuttling along until recent, their leadoff man has been historically effective.
I apologize in advance as this post is my second post in four days about Astros outfielder George Springer. Wait, I shouldn’t be apologizing for writing about a man who is off to a historical start. For a leadoff man, anyway.
Springer, for all intents and purposes, has been the team’s best hitter. Five home runs in his first nine games, which includes a game-winner last week. The remaining four have been leadoff home runs. That has to some sort of record, right? Oh wait, yes it is a record.
Here is some Statcast information of this particular home run.
Entering last night’s game in Seattle, Springer has been the best Astros hitter of the young season. In fact, he led the league in home runs with five before yesterday’s round of games. He also posted an impressive 188 wRC+ in his first nine games. That’s a nice stretch of hitting.
But the interesting aspect of this steak is Springer’s BABIP, which was at a paltry .174 yesterday. On the bright side, you shouldn’t expect his BABIP to remain that low for long. Springer has a career BABIP of .317 for whatever that is worth. That means all of his offensive value this season is coming via the home run, which isn’t shocking. And his .432 ISO as of yesterday backs this notion.
Unfortunately, this home run steak by Springer is unsustainable. We will likely see his power numbers like ISO lower while his BABIP rises. It will be interesting though to see how much power Springer hits for all season long. He has a career .207 ISO up to this point. We did witness an ISO increase last year from .183 to .196. And the ZiPS projection pegs Springer for a .221 ISO this season. In fact, all of Fangraphs projections on his player page have Springer taking a jump in ISO but a drop in BABIP.
The recent play of Springer has brought to attention the changing role of the leadoff man in baseball. For example, Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs is not the prototypical leadoff hitter, even more so than Springer. But the Cubs aren’t afraid to use him there as a leadoff hitter likley has more chances to have at-bats versus other positions in the lineup.
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The same line of logic applies to Springer. He is a potent bat that plays well in any situation so why not optimize the number of plate appearances that he receives in any given game. The chances of winning most likley increase.
**Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs**