The Cubs’ Dexter Fowler and the importance of the leadoff batter

by Bill Chuck on February 24, 2016

The non-signing of Dexter Fowler by the Baltimore Orioles and his return to the Cubs makes the presumptive favorites even more presumptive.

While Fowler would have been a great pickup for the Orioles on a number of levels, particularly because it would have given them a bonafide leadoff batter, he does the same for the Cubs plus it gives them a centerfielder enabling Jason Heyward to return to his slot as baseball’s best right fielder,

Here are Fowler’s career numbers as a leadoff batter:

G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
550 536 2504 2146 359 572 122 39 49 193 75 38 312 568 .267 .362 .428 .790
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/24/2016.

2015 Orioles leadoff batters

And why they needed Fowler.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP BA OBP SLG OPS W L
735 662 187 30 3 28 76 64 134 5 .282 .349 .464 .813 81 81
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/24/2016.
Name G PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP BA OBP SLG OPS W L
Manny Machado 111 496 447 134 24 1 23 58 45 72 1 .300 .364 .512 .877 52 59
Nolan Reimold 21 86 73 19 3 0 3 11 12 21 1 .260 .372 .425 .797 14 7
Alejandro De Aza 16 68 64 15 2 1 2 4 3 21 1 .234 .279 .391 .670 7 9
Gerardo Parra 7 32 31 5 1 0 0 1 1 7 0 .161 .188 .194 .381 4 3
Everth Cabrera 5 25 23 7 0 0 0 1 1 4 0 .304 .320 .304 .624 3 2
David Lough 5 15 14 3 0 1 0 0 0 4 1 .214 .267 .357 .624 3 2
Jimmy Paredes 1 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 1
Steve Pearce 1 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 1
Delmon Young 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 2
Dariel Alvarez 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 1
Steve Clevenger 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 1 0
Ryan Flaherty 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 1
Rey Navarro 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 1
Matt Wieters 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 undef 1.000 undef undef 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/24/2016.

Two characteristics of a good leadoff batter: OBP and stolen bases

Here are the OBP and SB numbers of teams in 2015. Note that Orioles rank highly on this list, but when you have a batter as potent as Manny Machado, you would prefer to place him lower in the lineup where his impact will be even greater.

Rk OBP PA AB R H 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 CLE .366 751 659 100 191 48 7 12 12 11 73 122 .290 .366 .439 .805
2 HOU .365 750 684 97 214 35 4 18 31 14 45 118 .313 .365 .455 .820
3 CHW .355 743 661 99 187 31 9 14 18 10 61 142 .283 .355 .421 .776
4 SFG .352 748 679 95 197 34 3 10 26 10 58 95 .290 .352 .393 .745
5 COL .350 745 671 101 194 33 9 19 45 14 52 123 .289 .350 .450 .800
6 BAL .349 735 662 99 187 30 3 28 15 8 64 134 .282 .349 .464 .813
7 NYM .347 753 656 102 168 35 3 28 9 7 86 167 .256 .347 .447 .793
8 BOS .345 764 699 112 208 44 8 22 17 6 52 104 .298 .345 .478 .823
9 MIA .344 732 689 98 219 25 9 4 65 22 29 103 .318 .344 .398 .742
10 CHC .344 756 661 109 170 36 8 17 22 9 84 169 .257 .344 .413 .757
11 ARI .338 763 705 105 210 40 7 12 30 18 43 80 .298 .338 .426 .764
12 TBR .337 745 658 85 170 37 6 16 16 8 57 144 .258 .337 .406 .743
13 STL .337 744 669 108 179 49 4 29 8 8 59 154 .268 .337 .483 .820
14 WSN .333 751 683 90 187 40 2 19 17 2 60 140 .274 .333 .422 .755
15 NYY .329 767 689 111 182 33 4 14 27 10 60 153 .264 .329 .385 .714
16 PHI .327 746 703 91 205 36 7 3 27 8 36 111 .292 .327 .376 .703
17 ATL .327 746 666 80 168 40 5 8 12 11 70 140 .252 .327 .363 .690
18 PIT .325 766 699 96 186 44 6 8 25 12 56 130 .266 .325 .381 .706
19 TOR .320 763 697 100 187 36 1 15 24 5 48 122 .268 .320 .387 .707
20 LAD .319 745 660 93 154 35 7 26 11 9 74 172 .233 .319 .426 .745
21 DET .318 754 698 100 186 31 17 11 31 16 49 174 .266 .318 .407 .725
22 MIL .314 734 691 97 194 34 8 12 24 11 28 114 .281 .314 .405 .719
23 TEX .313 756 674 99 166 35 10 8 24 10 64 169 .246 .313 .364 .677
24 SEA .307 740 672 76 166 33 6 18 17 8 56 150 .247 .307 .394 .702
25 SDP .303 737 673 104 166 34 6 21 13 6 50 144 .247 .303 .409 .711
26 OAK .300 759 704 94 177 26 11 6 31 9 44 126 .251 .300 .345 .645
27 MIN .298 741 671 104 159 40 5 27 12 5 54 167 .237 .298 .432 .730
28 KCR .295 746 684 94 171 23 5 5 18 6 37 95 .250 .295 .320 .615
29 CIN .290 755 701 96 169 23 6 10 40 6 46 108 .241 .290 .334 .624
30 LAA .280 734 678 89 161 25 6 13 9 1 36 128 .237 .280 .350 .630
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/24/2016.

Leadoff batters with a .350+ OBP in 2015 (minimum 50 games)

Rk Player G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Matt Carpenter 80 80 355 314 66 98 31 2 22 50 2 2 37 84 .312 .389 .634 1.022
2 Jason Kipnis 121 121 562 492 81 153 42 6 9 48 10 8 53 94 .311 .385 .476 .861
3 Brandon Guyer 61 52 224 190 33 52 11 2 5 14 7 3 15 36 .274 .379 .432 .811
4 Nick Markakis 61 61 285 251 33 74 15 0 2 16 0 1 32 35 .295 .379 .378 .757
5 Denard Span 61 61 275 246 38 74 17 0 5 22 11 0 25 26 .301 .365 .431 .796
6 Jose Altuve 111 111 508 469 66 152 28 3 11 54 27 10 25 53 .324 .365 .467 .832
7 Manny Machado 111 111 496 447 69 134 24 1 23 58 12 6 45 72 .300 .364 .512 .877
8 Curtis Granderson 140 138 636 546 93 142 29 2 26 64 8 6 80 140 .260 .360 .463 .823
9 Dee Gordon 144 144 651 613 88 205 24 8 4 46 58 20 25 90 .334 .360 .419 .779
10 Brett Gardner 55 55 254 224 43 63 16 2 7 29 6 1 26 65 .281 .360 .464 .824
11 Adam Eaton 151 151 686 608 97 174 28 9 14 56 18 8 57 130 .286 .360 .431 .791
12 Nori Aoki 79 79 357 323 39 94 11 2 4 23 13 5 27 21 .291 .357 .375 .731
13 Charlie Blackmon 144 144 661 594 91 173 30 9 17 58 42 13 45 107 .291 .352 .458 .810
14 Ketel Marte 54 54 245 217 25 61 14 3 2 17 8 4 24 42 .281 .350 .401 .751
15 Dexter Fowler 146 146 672 581 102 148 29 8 17 46 20 7 82 147 .255 .350 .420 .770
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/24/2016.

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