With February right around the corner, apparently it's time to start the annual why is Alfonso Soriano hitting leadoff? machine in Chicago. Personally, I'm fed up with it. He hit leadoff for the majority of the games last season, and the Cubs won 97 total. That's hardly something worthy of panic.
Still, fans see the .344 on-base percentage, the drastic decline in steals, the home run power, and the presence of Ryan Theriot (.387 OBP last year). It was the popular thing in Chicago to complain about Soriano batting leadoff down the stretch in 2007, and it's still lingering.
"At this point I don't care," Soriano said. "If the manager wants to move me from leadoff spot, that's fine. I'm tired because every year [critics] start again with the leadoff thing. I don't care, you know?"
Yes, this is very true. I'm tired of it as well. As I told people last season, it's ridiculous to complain about the order of the lineup when the offense was going so well. Check out the Cubs' elite national league offensive rankings last season:
Runs - 1st
Hits - 2nd
Batting average - 2nd
Walks - 1st
On-base percentage - 1st
Slugging percentage - 1st
Obviously, this means they also led the league in OPS. Yet people were still complaining about Soriano hitting leadoff. It's lazy cherry-picking to bring up the playoffs, because the entire team sucked. Where were Theriot and Derrek Lee in Game 2 when Soriano started with a leadoff single?
With a lineup so balanced that the 8-hole and 2-hole hitters are interchangeable, not to mention the best hitting pitching staff in the NL, you could argue Soriano wasn't doing any harm at all batting leadoff. In fact, he drove in 75 runs in only 109 games last season. If you prorate that to 162 games, that equals 111 RBI. From a leadoff man. He also scored 76 times, so he was driving in runs and scoring himself at a high rate.
So, um, why is this still a discussion? He's obviously comfortable atop the order, and Pinella doesn't want to move him. It seems like it's simply a case where a few people start up the opinion a few years ago, and every fan has to latch onto it and regurgitate as their own opinion without actually delving into all possibilities. Do I think his power could be better served somewhere else in the order? Of course, but is the dynamic going to work the same? Will he still see a steady diet of fastballs in the middle of the order? Furthermore, you've seen the numbers above -- why mess with them? Getting guys on base and scoring runs wasn't exactly a weakness last season.
It's time to move on, Cubs fans. Alfonso Soriano is the leadoff hitter, and it's not near as bad for the team as you think.