First, it appears Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres' primary qualifications for batting leadoff at the moment are:
- Angel Pagan's injured;
- They play center field (Boch, are you channeling Dusty Baker?);
- They're Latino; and
- They're relatively fast.
Certainly there aren't any statistical justifications for it. Torres is never going to be the Torres of 2010 again, and Blanco, while we've touted him in the past, has enough career ABs under his belt now to show that he's really a fourth outfielder, a back-'em-up and plug-him-in type-- valuable, but miscast as an everyday starter. And yes, we've seen this all before (hence the above reference), and it is with leaden heart we proclaim that Gregor Blanco is looking like the new Marvin Benard, with a much better glove but a lot less power.
Given the similar platoon crater in left field (our latest acquisition, Jeff Francoeur, over his 1200-game career has averaged about 27 walks per 500 at-bats), it's clear there are too many outs in this lineup. When that happens, we contend it makes more sense to cluster your best bats together at the top, for the simple reason that one big inning is easier to muster up than three small innings. Also, everyone's average goes up with men on base, and if the top five do their jobs, it's bound to help the bottom three.
So, we would identify that top five as Marco Scutaro, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Hunter Pence, in that order.
Without question, Scutaro (.368) should be leading off. (If you're going to argue that one stolen base all year disqualifies him, please leave this site NOW.) The man can hit, and while he's not a walks machine, when you do get on it becomes less important how you get on. Simply put, he makes things happen.
Belt's .340 is not great, but he averages about one walk for every ten ABs, which is standard for a good hitter and stratospheric for this team. He has some pop and hits better with men on base, and in that context his high strikeout total is not as deadly as it may seem at first, since he usually hits the ball in the air and thus avoids the double plays.
The middle three stay where they are; the team is committed to these guys because Posey is fantastic, Pence is still slugging .451, and Sandoval has shown he can do it in the past, even though his present is pretty weak. If anyone is gonna "snap out of it" this year, our money's on the Panda.
The bottom three begins with Brandon Crawford, who's kind of the swing-man here. He's hit for average and for some power before, and he did so earlier this year, and he's another who has shown he's capable of turning it around. Crawford at .280 or above gives us a top six and a bottom two.
And at that bottom, we'd hide the Tanaka/Francoeur tag team in the seven spot, with Blanco/Torres eighth, since their speed might give us a few infield hits and the occasional gap double ahead of the pitcher's spot.
Something tells us the Giants are not going to make a big move at the trade deadline. Given the hand we're dealt, we believe this would be the best way to play 'em the rest of the season. If our starting pitching strings some consistent starts together, the patchwork top-heavy lineup we've outlined above might just score enough runs to keep everyone interested past the 49ers' home opener this September.