When the Los Angeles Dodgers announced the signing of A.J. Pollock, many fans assumed he would leadoff for the team. On the surface, it makes some sense, but the team would be better off with him in the middle of the order.
Pollock leading off makes sense because the Dodgers don’t currently have a traditional leadoff option on their roster and Pollock has 825 career plate appearances batting 1st in the lineup.
Last season, Manager Dave Roberts relied on Chris Taylor and Joc Pederson to hit 1st in the majority of games.
Taylor posted a .343 OBP and 118 wRC+ in 347 plate appearances batting 1st. Pederson posted a .300 OBP and 124 wRC+ in 261 plate appearances. Since a good leadoff hitter should have a high OBP, neither stood out as the options the team should stick with.
The problem is A.J. Pollock also has a low OBP. Last season, he was below league average with a .316 OBP; In 2017, he was right around the league average mark at .330. In his career, he’s posted a .338 OBP over 2507 plate appearances.
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The argument for Pollock leading off is a fair one. Over his career, he has been at his best when leading off. In those 825 plate appearances, he’s posted a .343 OBP and 113 wRC+. It’s possible he’s more comfortable leading off or changes his approach to work better batting 1st. But even .343 isn’t much higher than his career .338 mark and it’s still below what an ideal leadoff hitter should be at.
Pollock makes more sense hitting in the middle of the order where his right-handed bat can break up all the left-handers and provide some power from the ride side. The team still wouldn’t have a consistent leadoff hitter but putting him between Muncy and Bellinger would make the lineup deeper and give the Dodgers a tactical advantage late in games when left-handed relief specialists come in.
The Dodgers main problem when constructing their lineup is their best leadoff option is either Corey Seager or Max Muncy. If the Dodgers decided to use a more progressive lineup, Muncy would make a lot of sense batting 1st. He great on-base skills, he has some power in his bat, and he’s the sixth fastest player on the team according to Baseball Savant. I think it’s unlikely that they move Muncy out of the middle of the order but it’s a strong option for them. Seager also makes sense leading off but Roberts will likely slot him back into the second spot.
Instead, the team will likely return to their Pederson and Taylor platoon to fill the leadoff role. It isn’t the most ideal option but both of them can provide solid at-bats and above league production at the top of the order, even if they aren’t getting on-base at the ideal rate.
L/R Joc Pederson / Chris Taylor LF (platoon)
L Corey Seager SS
R Justin Turner 3B
L Max Muncy 1B
R A.J. Pollock CF
L Cody Bellinger RF
R Enrique Hernandez 2B
R Austin Barnes C