Lindbergh: Baseball’s three true outcomes continue their takeover in 2018

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on March 28, 2018:

In the closing days of spring training, the Yankees and Orioles used Aaron Judge and Chris Davis, respectively, as leadoff hitters. I’ll let that sentence sink in.

Although the leadoff slot has become more inclusive in recent seasons, evolving away from the speed-centric archetype that predominated for decades, Judge and Davis, who combined for 10 stolen bases and 500-plus pounds last season, were still unorthodox choices, even in a low-stakes spring training environment. Neither hitter has ever started a regular-season game in the leadoff slot, but both of their managers are at least allowing for the possibility that they’ll do so this season.

Normally, one would want big boppers like Judge and Davis lower in the lineup, where they could more often drive in two or three runs with one blow. In baseball’s current run environment, though, this leadoff experiment makes some sense. Judge and Davis are good at getting on base, and they aren’t their teams’ sole sources of slugging. Not only are batters hitting homers at record rates, those homers are distributed more evenly than ever across the league. If Judge and Davis drive in fewer runs, their teammates will pick up the slack; there’s plenty of power to go around. In fact, both of their teams are projected to break MLB’s all-time team home run record in 2018. So while the second, third, or fourth spots might be more conventional, what’s the harm in having the AL’s home run kings from two of the past three seasons set the table instead?

Read the full article here:

Originally published: March 29, 2018. Last Updated: March 29, 2018.