Batting Lead Off For The Kanas City Royals


Historically, a lead off batter was someone who was a good batter, could take pitches, and provided some disruptive speed. First and foremost though, to bat lead off, a player typically must display the talent to get on base.

Jun 16, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Kansas City Royals second baseman Chris Getz (17) against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The greatest lead off hitter of all time was Rickey Henderson. No one could manufacture runs better than Henderson. His numbers and historic rankings are awesome. On the all time lists, he is first in stolen bases (1406), 1st in runs scored (2295), second in walks (2190), 21st in hits (3055), 36th in OPS (.401), 51st in doubles (510), and 138th in home runs.

The Kansas City Royals have…Chris Getz.

Obviously, this is an unfair comparison. Henderson started nearly all of his career games as the lead off hitter and is the greatest lead off hitter of all time. The purpose to this little exercise is to point out that Henderson was not just a speedy, slap hitter. He worked counts, he got on base, and he had power. He amassed 873 extra base hits, including 297 home runs. He was so much more than a slap hitter.

Chris Getz is none of those things. He’s fast, sure, but he is not disruptive on the base paths. He struggles to get on base, and it is even worse leading off games. This season, Getz is 1-7 with no walks in the first inning of games he bats first, and that lone hit came last night.

In his career, Getz has hit 1st in 69 games. In those games, he has 11 hits (all singles) and 7 walks. His slash line for his career batting lead off is .177/.261/.177/.438. This is even worse than his career slash line – .253/.312/.312/.625. There is absolutely nothing in his career numbers that indicates that Getz should be batting lead off, or even getting regular at bats, for that matter, at the major league level.

Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few weeks, the Atlanta Braves have been hitting Jason Heyward lead off. Although his average isn’t good over those 18 games leading off games, his slash line is – .200/.333/.467/.800. Overall, Heyward batting first in the order has been a great success thus far. His total slash line over the past 18 games is .371/.443/.586/1.029.

Now, Heyward’s numbers come from a very small sample size but it shows out-of-the-box thinking. Heyward is of a similar age and skill set of Eric Hosmer. Heyward probably has more pure power and more speed than Hosmer, but Hosmer is going to hit for a better average and can still steal some bases. There is no reason to think Hosmer couldn’t have success leading off.

Manager Ned Yost went outside the box when he placed Alex Gordon at lead off and Gordon enjoyed success. He should still be an option. A player can only lead off a game once. The point should be getting one of your best hitters as many opportunities and as many plate appearances in a game, and in a season, as possible.

The Royals are struggling to score runs. What is the purpose of maintaining outdated  practices as far as line-ups are concerned? In what way does batting a light hitting, slap hitter with no history of success at getting on base consistently, help your ball club?

Why not hit your best 3 hitters 1-2-3 and let the rest of the line-up work itself out. Just move everyone up – bat Hosmer first, Billy Butler second, and Gordon third. Or Gordon first, Hosmer second, and Butler third. Let the little guys manufacture runs at the bottom of the line-up and get your best three hitters the most at bats.

Jason Heyward has produced 35 runs in 79 plate appearances in the 18 games he has batted first. Chris Getz has produced 37 runs – ALL SEASON! In 57 games and 192 plate appearances, Chris Getz has produced 2 whole runs more than Jason Heyward has in less than 3 weeks. Where is the value of that?

The Royals are going to struggle to score runs, especially with Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain out of the line-up, and even then, they weren’t producing at any great pace. Still, they are better than their replacements. Why not get as many at bats for your best hitters as possible?

My guess is that Ned Yost has never heard of Baseball-Reference.com, and even if he has, I doubt he has ever visited the site.

(Note – In the first game of the doubleheader today, Chris Getz is batting lead off and is 0-4 with a strikeout.)