Eric Young Jr. & the leadoff spot: making the best of a bad situation
When Eric Young Jr. stole two bases in the final game of the season last September to cement his status as the National League’s leading base stealer, it gave Mets fans a little something to cheer for after the pre-game ceremony honoring Mike Piazza had ended.
The June 18th, 2013 trade for Young was a turning point in the Mets season – not because Young is a great player, but because it meant they stopped playing Lucas Duda in left field. And Duda is one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball history. Young also gave Terry Collins a regular leadoff hitter, although he wasn’t very good at it.
While many fans and big league managers fall into the trap of thinking a leadoff hitter needs to be fast, that’s only part of the equation. Leadoff hitters need to get on base above all else, and Young is not particularly good at doing that.
- Cincinnati’s Joey Votto led the National League with a .435 on-base percentage. Cincinnati’s Shin-Soo-Choo had the highest on-base percentage in baseball as a regular leadoff hitter – .432.
- Eric Young had a .318 on-base percentage in 2013, just slightly lower than his .325 career mark.
Some take hope from the fact that Young had a significantly higher on-base percentage when he was actually leading off an inning – .380. With no one on base, Young’s on-base percentage was .343. With runners on base, his on-base percentage was just .260.
If Eric Young is going to play on a regular basis, it does make a certain amount of sense to put him at the top of the lineup to maximize his skills. But on a good team, Eric Young shouldn’t be a regular player – he doesn’t hit for power or average, he doesn’t walk, and he doesn’t play great defense.
To his credit, Collins seems to recognize that Young has these shortcomings. The Mets’ manager told reporters this week that he’d like Young to have a .350 on-base percentage. Collins believes Young can do this by bunting more and being more selective early in the count. I don’t know how much Young is willing (or able) to change his game at age 28, but I hope he can figure out how to get on base more often.
There is not an ideal leadoff hitter on the New York Mets’ roster, and Collins seems to have his heart set on playing Eric Young. It would be nice if he rewarded his manager’s faith.
You can follow Paul’s Random Baseball Stuff on Facebook or Google+, see my photos on Flickr and Instagram, and follow @Paul_Hadsall on Twitter, where I talk about about a variety of things in addition to baseball.