We’ve sure written a lot of articles about who should bat lead-off for the Dodgers. That’s probably because there is no clear cut choice for the lead-off spot. The Dodgers have a choice between four players. Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, Jimmy Rollins, and Howie Kendrick could all conceivably bat in the number one spot. Although Adrian believes the Dodgers should keep Puig in the number two spot indefinitely.
If we had to choose between Rollins, Kendrick, and Crawford, (Based on the process of elimination, since none of the other guys could realistically bat lead-off), Rollins should get the nod. No, not because of “stolen bases”, but because of walks. Rollins draws more walks than any of the other players, despite posting slightly lower on base percentages.
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If you take Crawford, Rollins, and Kendrick and compare their on base percentages, they are all very similar. If we take a look at their averages, we can see that they are all within a few points. But let’s take a look at their wOBA as well. The weighty on base percentage is a better all around indicator of offensive contributions, because it takes into account more offensive events.
Here are their career on base marks.
Rollins OBP-.327 wOBA -.326
Kendrick OBP-.332 wOBA -.330
Crawford OBP -..339 wOBA -.338
As you can see Crawford has the highest OBP technically, but they are all around the same. Rollins, and Crawford steal more bases, but that is irrelevant when talking about getting on base skills. Now let’s take a look at one of the most important aspects, drawing walks.
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Here are their career walk percentages and total walks drawn
Rollins – BB% 8.0 BB-753
Kendrick- BB% 4.8 BB- 211
Crawford – BB% 5.3 BB-363
Number of pitches seen in 2014
If we take a look at how often each player swings at pitches outside the strike zone, you can see that Rollins has the advantage.
Rollins O-swing% – 22.6%
Kendrick O-swing%- 35.1%
Crawford O-swing% 32.1%
Rollins draws more walks than any of the others. He has a higher walk rate, and more career walks drawn. He even saw more pitches last season than any of the others. Although to be fair Kendrick saw a lot of pitches too. He swings at the least amount of pitches outside the strike zone as well.
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But somehow Rollins has more patience than any of the other players. The ability to draw walks and plate discipline is a key skill for a lead-off bat. While Kendrick, and Crawford are drawing 35-45 walks a year, Rollins is averaging around 60-65 per season.
Rollins is actually posting the highest walk rates of his career. He hasn’t had a walk rate lower than 8.0% since the 2009 season.
Although Rollins’ increasing strikeout rate is a concern. However he still strikes out less than Kendrick, and has had just one 100+ whiff season since 2003.
The Dodgers may not have a true lead-off bat. However if they have to choose between these three players, Rollins would probably be the best choice. He doesn’t strike out a lot, he draws more walks, and he sees more pitches than anyone else does. With Puig batting behind him, I’m fine with that.
It’s not about stolen bases, or veteran presence. It’s about plate discipline and seeing the most pitches.