The question of who should be the lead-off hitter for the Dodgers has been a constant conundrum throughout this 2012 season. Out of Spring Training, we were hopeful that Dee Gordon would be our lightning bolt atop of the lineup. Alas, Gordon did not pan out as a productive lead-off hitter before he was sidelined in July with a torn ligament in his thumb. We had glimpses of greatness from Gordon in the top spot when he was able to get on base and utilize his speed to fluster the opposition and manufacture treasured runs. He just wasn’t able to get on base enough to showcase his speedy talent.
Don Mattingly had to try something else. Since the Dodgers really did not have a true lead-off hitter, he slotted Mark Ellis into the role intermittently this season. Mark Ellis has been the most consistent lead-off man this season, although he doesn’t have the speed desired by most to be an ideal lead-off candidate.
Mark Ellis- leading off (26 games ) .280/.325/.421
14 runs, 30 hits, 3 HR, 7 BB, 0 SB
As you can see, Ellis is more suited to hit in the second slot where he can use his strong baseball fundamentals to help advance the lead-off runner into scoring position. Yet he is still one of the best options the Dodgers have right now until Dee Gordon can develop more.
Dee Gordon-leading off (62 games) .217/.269/.271
31 runs, 56 hits, 1 HR, 16 BB, 28 SB
We all watched Dee struggle to get on base through the majority of the season before his tragic slide forced him to the disabled list. Gordon struck out 52 times in the lead-off spot. His atrocious on base percentage did not make him a viable option to lead-off. Batting lower in the order, in the eighth spot, Dee actually thrived. His much better line of .308/.341/.333 in 12 games in the eight spot was a refreshing outcome which reflects his lack of readiness as a big league lead-off hitter at this early point of his career.
Shane Victorino- leading off (25 games) .245/.304/.349
15 runs, 26 hits, 1 HR, 8 BB, 6 SB
The Dodgers went out and attempted to acquire a true lead-off hitter in Shane Victorino. His performance so far in that role has been disappointing to say the least. Much like Dee’s early season failure to get on base, Victorino hasn’t been that more successful at the job. Mattingly was forced to put Victorino in the second spot behind Mark Ellis after his bat never came around after joining the Dodgers. I was very skeptical of this trade with the Phillies when it happened. Now with just nine games remaining on the calendar, I can say that Victorino has added nothing but an improved glove in left field going down the stretch for this team. His future with the Dodgers remains to be determined this winter since Carl Crawford is expected to man left field for the Dodgers when he returns healthy.
Elian Herrera- leading off (6 games ) .333/.333/.500
Even though Elian Herrera has only lead-off in six games this season, you can’t help but notice his numbers. Albeit, it is a small sample size, yet at this point the Dodgers need to directly inject themselves with any energy and momentum they can. Herrera was a spark plug during many games in the first half of the season, and who is to say he cannot bring that fire to these last few precious games? I will go out on a limb and suggest that Mattingly should have Herrera start in left field and lead-off during this final push. Juan Rivera is stagnate in left field, and he is even more vegetative on the base path.
Carl Crawford may be the Dodgers’ future lead-off hitter and left fielder, but until he is healthy to return to the game we must weigh our other options. Dee Gordon could also be a bright lead-off hitter in the future, but his plate discipline needs to improve greatly before he can be cemented into that important role. Mark Ellis and Elian Herrera are our best current options to lead the Dodgers to victory for the remainder of 2012.