It’s the thought that counts?

Posted by Steve

Spring training is starting to wind down, but there are still a few things up in the air for the Brewers.

The story of the past week that has really caught my eye is this one about Ken Macha possibly using Jason Kendall at leadoff at times this season.  I have mixed feelings on this.  While I like Macha’s reasoning in theory, I don’t think Kendall fits what he’s looking for.

“(Kendall) did a good job,” Macha said. “What he does is almost every at-bat is a seven-pitch at-bat. He’ll take a walk.”

Macha is referring to his days in Oakland when Kendall led off on that team.  The seven-pitch at-bat comment is way off, but it really seems to just be hyperbole, so whatever.  But his point is he likes Kendall because he works the count and takes walks.  Kendall used to do that quite a bit, but as he’s gotten older it hasn’t happened as often.  It’s also odd that Macha would say that about Kendall, considering Rickie Weeks is better at both seeing pitches and taking walks than Kendall.

Pitches per plate appearance–career numbers

Weeks: 4.09

Kendall: 3.92

Weeks has also seen more pitches per plate appearance than Kendall each of the last two seasons, and it’s by a wider margin than their career numbers.

Weeks also gets the nod over Kendall in walks.  Weeks’ career walk rate is 11.7%.  It was 12.2% in 2008 and 16% in 2007.  Kendall’s career walk rate is 8.6%.  It was 8.8% in 2008 and 6.2% in 2007.

For that reason, and also for the seemingly obvious fact that he is a bad hitter, I don’t like the idea of Kendall leading off.  Basically, having Kendall lead off all season would give the Brewers’ worst hitting starting player (by far) the most at-bats on the team.  That’s never a good idea.

I’m not too worried for these reasons.  One, and this is pretty subjective, but I don’t get the impression Macha is considering using Kendall at leadoff full time, or even a majority of the time.  It seems to me this would be something he’d try at times depending on certain matchups.

Two, I’ve often heard the argument that hitting Rickie Weeks at the top of the order has made him more passive.  All through college and in the minors, Weeks was generally hitting third in the order and was a main power threat–quite a different mindset from leading off.  Weeks was never groomed as a leadoff hitter; he was just moved there because the Brewers didn’t have a better option.  As much as I love his walk rate, it seems that he sometimes actually takes too many pitches, particularly hittable ones.  If this thinking is at all involved with moving Weeks out of the leadoff spot, I’m not 100% against it.

Finally, I’m not too worried because of this quote from Macha.

“The way the rest of our lineup sets up, we’ve got guys with so much power,” Macha said. “People say a typical leadoff hitter can steal a base. I don’t want to be giving up outs on the bases with guys up there who can hit homers. Do you want to get thrown out on the bases when Prince (Fielder) is hitting? I don’t think so.

“If you eat up 25 pitches on the pitcher (during a game), you know what 75 (pitches) means (for a pitcher). A 100-point jump in batting average (for the other team).”

Wow!  Let me count the things I love about this quote.

1. Downplaying the need for speed at the leadoff spot

2. Not giving up outs on the bases in front of the power guys (even though Weeks steals bases at a very good 85% clip)

3. Stressing working the count

4. Pointing out the drop in effectiveness of pitchers after pitch 75

In all, I’d say there’s as much good in that article as there is bad.  Just don’t hit your worst hitter at leadoff plz, kthxbai.


2 responses to “It’s the thought that counts?

  1. That is a sexy quote. Yay Ken.

  2. Counsel for leadoff! Batting over .400 this spring…Billy Hall better watch out.

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