What Makes an Preferrred Leadoff Hitter?

Ricky Henderson on the Yankees; CC by License 2.0

The leadoff hitter is without doubt one of the most necessary spots within the order because it begins the sport off and will get essentially the most at-bats. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of dialogue on what it takes to be a leadoff hitter and what sort of {qualifications} a leadoff hitter ought to even have. The spot itself has gone via plenty of change not too long ago within the MLB and what individuals consider it. Earlier than analyzing the spot and discovering some present leadoff guys that match the standards, you will need to perceive the historical past of the spot.

Historical past of the leadoff hitter

One can argue that the leadoff hitter has been one of the vital modified elements of baseball within the analytical period. All through a lot of the earlier historical past of baseball, crucial factor from a leadoff hitter has been pace and the power to steal bases. It was thought that having a man who can steal bases constantly and supply constant pace, even when the hitter was not precisely the most effective at getting on base and even hitting, most groups simply needed a man who may run. An instance of this comes from the 1970 Yankees who constantly put one of many worst hitters in baseball that yr within the leadoff spot. Horace Clarke hit leadoff in 157 video games for the 1970 Yankees and his slash line was .251/.286/.309 for an OPS of .595 and a 68 OPS+. Clarke stole 23 bases this yr and it was the 4th consecutive season of 20+ steals however what’s the level of that pace if he by no means will get on base? The Yankees may have benefited from having 1B Danny Carter or RF Curt Blefary from hitting leadoff. Neither of those guys was a risk on the basepaths however posted OBP of .340 and .324 respectively. This Yankees staff received 93 video games and simply missed the playoffs however may have simply received a pair extra video games by having a man hitting leadoff who may get on base. Nevertheless, one staff was forward of its time throughout this period and that was the Baltimore Orioles whose supervisor, Earl Weaver, had a extra fashionable strategy when it got here to platooning, managing a bullpen, and numerous different issues. Throughout the 1975 season for instance, the Orioles’ main leadoff hitter was RF Ken Singleton who stole simply 3 bases. Nevertheless, he had a slash line of .300/.415/.454 for an OPS of .869 and a 153 OPS+. This staff had 4 guys with over 14 steals however Weaver knew the worth of getting a man in that spot who may get on base. There have been plenty of guys pre-sabermetrics who stole bases and have been nice leadoff hitters so it is vitally attainable to do each, nevertheless, the strategy of selecting a leadoff hitter was largely primarily based on pace. Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, there started a shift within the leadoff hitter that was to place excessive stroll and excessive on-base guys in that slot forward of men with pace. This mannequin is best throughout and it makes extra sense for making a lineup.

Dream leadoff hitter

Now it’s time to undergo totally different stats which are essential for a super leadoff hitter.

Will get On Base

The only most necessary factor about my leadoff hitter is that he will get on base rather a lot. The job of the leadoff hitter must be to discover a method to get on base for the remainder of the order. The run expectancy doubles when the leadoff hitter will get on first base, so to say that it is vital is an understatement. Usually your 2-5 goes to be your finest hitters so that you need somebody who’s constantly on base for them to drive dwelling. An excellent leadoff hitter ought to have an OBP of not less than .345 or an xwOBA of across the similar. This offers the staff an opportunity to constantly rating on the high of the lineup. Now it will be higher to have a better OBP however this .345 mark is an efficient minimal to should create plenty of runs.


Walks are the simplest method to get on base as a result of the hitter simply has to take a seat there and have a look at pitches. The flexibility for my leadoff hitter to stroll goes past that although. It will be significant for a leadoff hitter to see plenty of pitches and to make the pitcher work. The significance of the leadoff hitter to work the depend is invaluable. Any supervisor is aware of that they need the pitcher to should work to get the leadoff man out so he is likely to be tiring down extra by the point he will get to the center of the order. An excellent BB% for my leadoff hitter is 10% or larger. That is roughly the highest 30% of the league in stroll fee. It is a good quantity to work the depend and assist the OBP be larger. One other side of walks is just not chasing on the pitch aka Chase%. An excellent chase% for a leadoff hitter is round 25% or much less. This could once more be high 30% within the league and this mixture of BB% and Chase% would make for a affected person and ultimate leadoff hitter.

Arduous contact

The objective each time a hitter goes to the plate is to make arduous contact and barrel the ball up. It’s a should for a leadoff hitter to not less than be capable to do that properly sufficient. To achieve our first objective of getting on base, hitting the ball arduous will lead to doing that extra. The best leadoff hitter ought to have a mean exit velo of round 90 MPH which is within the high 40% of all hitters. A Barrel% of 9% and HardHit% of round 42% are additionally necessary. These metrics collectively ought to produce a hitter that may constantly hit the ball arduous which is able to result in getting on base rather a lot. Alongside these similar traces are additional base hits that are nonetheless semi-important for a leadoff hitter. It’s sometimes additionally necessary for a leadoff hitter to have round 10 to 25 dwelling runs and 20 to 30 2Bs a yr. A leadoff hitter isn’t a big-time energy man as a result of he wouldn’t be a leadoff hitter if he was. Nevertheless, he nonetheless wants to have the ability to have constant energy to the place he can present stable extra-base hit numbers. All of this put collectively would result in a really stable leadoff hitter that may hit the ball arduous and get additional base hits.


An necessary factor for my leadoff hitter is to keep away from strikeouts. Strikeouts can kill an innings and a strikeout means there isn’t any probability to get on base and as talked about beforehand getting on base is crucial factor. A Okay fee of 20% or much less would qualify as fairly good for the best leadoff hitter. Avoiding strikeouts can result in getting on base increasingly more walks. A giant a part of avoiding strikeouts is just not whiffing so a Whiff% of 23% or much less could be ultimate for a leadoff hitter.


As mentioned earlier, groups used to take pace under consideration as the first focus. Now it shouldn’t be the first focus, it ought to be being competent on the basepaths. Being quick on the basepaths can result in being put in a scoring place and extra runs being scored. A dash pace of 28.0 Ft/Sec and 10 SB a yr could be very helpful on the high of the lineup. These items should not essential however generally is a good contact to a leadoff hitter.

Not being the most effective hitter

The final part for a leadoff hitter is just not being the most effective hitter on the staff. 9/10 the most effective hitter hits 2-4 within the order and doesn’t hit leadoff. The explanation for that is to allow them to drive within the runs whereas the leadoff hitter’s principal job is to get on base for the most effective hitters.

Dream Leadoff hitter stat line

Greatest present choices for leadoff hitters

Lars Nootbaar

Nootbaar is without doubt one of the finest present choices for a modern-day leadoff hitter. He has a .351 OBP throughout his profession and a .376 mark this yr. He additionally walks at a close to 15% clip whereas having a good 21.5% Okay%. The Okay% is a little bit excessive however not too dramatic. His XBH numbers should not there as his 2Bs are particularly low however he makes up for it with stable arduous contact charges. His exit velo is strictly 90 MPH, a Brl% of 9%, and an HH% of 41%. These are all extraordinarily ultimate for a leadoff hitter as properly. He additionally Chases at simply an 18% clip and whiffs at only a 20% clip. He also can present first rate pace at 27.9 Ft/sec and has 7 SB this yr already. Now there are some issues that he’s lacking however all in all, Nootbaar is without doubt one of the finest present choices for the leadoff spot.

Corbin Carroll

Carroll may find yourself being too good for hitting leadoff nevertheless if he may get some energy bats behind him he may find yourself being the best choice for hitting leadoff. Caroll has been getting on base at a .365 clip and has an OPS over .900 this yr. His walks are a little bit low as they’re at 9.5% however his Okay% is stable for a leadoff at 20.5%. His XBHs are the place he’s most precious as he has already gotten 20 HRs and 2Bs this yr. The exit velo mark of 90.5 MPH, Brl% of 9.1%, and HH% of 41.6% are all additionally superb for any hitter, particularly one that may hit leadoff. His Chase and Whiff charges are each excessive with them being 27.4% and 22.1% respectively. His pace is a large plus as he has 30 SB and a 30.1 Ft/Sec. General, if Caroll can get some stable bats behind him, he could possibly be an elite leadoff hitter.

Riley Greene

Greene is one other younger man just like Carrol. If he will get some bats behind him he could possibly be an elite leadoff hitter. His .379 OBP and OPS nearing .850 are each very a lot ultimate. His walks are about common at 9% however Okay% are a minor situation as they’re nearing 28%. He makes up for this although with very stable arduous contact charges: 92 MPH, 9.7 Brl%, and 48.6% HH%. His XBH numbers should not wonderful however with these arduous contact numbers, they don’t matter as a lot. His chase and whiff charges are each excessive at 28% for every of them. His pace helps contribute to his worth as his 28.4 Ft/Sec and he has 6 SB this yr as properly. Greene has some stuff to work on however could possibly be an elite leadoff hitter.

These are simply a few the most effective leadoff hitter choices in right this moment’s recreation. I attempted to keep away from hitters who’re a number of the finest in baseball that hit leadoff like Mookie, Acuna, and even Ohtani generally. Guys like this succeed regardless of the place they hit and solely hit leadoff as a result of depth of their respective lineups. These should not precisely the most effective ones however are simply a number of the finest.

Greatest to ever do it

With all this being mentioned, the dream leadoff hitter and by far the most effective leadoff hitter ever was Rickey Henderson. It ought to be apparent but when one have been to begin a staff all time; Rickey has to hit leadoff. He checks just about the entire bins listed above and does them to the most effective diploma attainable. He was a profession .400 OBP and .820 OPS man. His profession stroll fee was over 16% and a Okay% at 12% are each unbelievable and very good for what we’re on the lookout for. His XBH was no situation in addition to he was constantly placing up 15-30 HRs and 20-35 2Bs. It doesn’t have to say something about his SB aside from this: he stole 1406 profession SB, and it’ll by no means get touched once more. Rickey is the golden normal for hitting leadoff hitters and he’ll seemingly by no means get touched.


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