Here’s a question not to get too worked up over:
Who’s going to bat leadoff for the Dodgers?
They don’t have an answer now, and if they did, it would probably change by tomorrow. They clearly do not have the prototypical leadoff hitter. They did have one, but they traded Dee Gordon to the Marlins last off-season.
The Dodgers were hoping Joc Pederson would seize the spot last year, but when he went into his second-half tailspin, he headed south in the lineup. Then they rotated like crazy, and if President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman had a fondness for matchups before, it was only magnified in the second half with the way the leadoff spot was handled.
Manager Dave Roberts, who arrived keenly aware of Friedman’s penchant for analytics, declared on the first day of camp that the game had evolved away from the traditional leadoff man. At least around here.
“I think that nowadays, it’s just another spot in the order,” Roberts said. “Whereas a typical leadoff hitter doesn’t have to be Brett Butler, hitting every day at the top.”
The team that once gave the world the ultimate leadoff man in Maury Wills will now give them just about everybody.
This was well underway for the Dodgers last season. In the 27 games they played in September before clinching the division, they batted Austin Barnes, Scott Schebler, Enrique Hernandez, Chase Utley, Carl Crawford and Pederson in the leadoff spot. They started the month with Jimmy Rollins hitting leadoff and by the end of it he had lost his starting job to rookie Corey Seager. The player who led off more than any other in those 27 games, with nine, was … Justin Ruggiano.
In the Dodgers' five playoff games, Howie Kendrick led off three times. He led off once during the regular season.
Now Ruggiano and Rollins are gone, and the leadoff spot could be handled a lot like it was at the end of 2015. Crawford may seem the closest to the classic leadoff hitter, but he’ll come to spring without a starting job. Pederson had 30-plus stolen bases twice in the minors but was good on only four of 11 attempts last season and had a .317 on-base percentage in the second half. That’s as close as the Dodgers come to a speedster.
The Dodgers’ mantra this season is “depth,” and their lineup figures to be a frequent work in progress. More than ever, the lineup could appear a daily adventure of matchups and history and hot hitters.
From its first hitter on.