Rickey Henderson, the all time leader in leadoff home runs[1].
Rickey Henderson, the all time leader in leadoff home runs[1].

In baseball, a leadoff hitter is a batter who bats first in the lineup. It can also refer to any batter who bats first in any inning.

Strategy

Traditionally, the leadoff hitter has been utilized as a contact-oriented position. The leadoff hitter is usually tasked with being able to reach base at a proficient on-base percentage and generate runs for the team. Secondary goals for such a player include wearing down a pitcher's stamina and providing a dangerous presence along the basepaths to create more offensive opportunities. As a result, the prototypical leadoff hitter is small ball oriented, with elements such as contact ability, speed, patience, and occasionally defense elevated to an important level.[2] Power hitters, instead, would be put in the third and fourth slots to drive in the leadoff hitter and produce more runs as a result, thus deemphasizing the necessity for power amongst leadoff hitters.[3] The correlation between leadoff hitters and small ball stretches as far back as 1898 with mentions of a "small, active fellow who can hit, run and steal bases" as being fit for the position.[4] Players such as Rickey Henderson, Ichiro Suzuki, and Kenny Lofton are often considered as archetypal leadoff hitters.[5]

In recent years, however, leadoff hitters are shifting away from the traditional makeup to generally more well-rounded players. Numerous teams have opted to utilize hitters with strong on-base skills and power potential at the top of the batting order in exchange for speed and pure contact ability.[6] Non-typical leadoff hitters such as Kyle Schwarber and George Springer have all seen time in the position in recent years.

Records

Key
* Member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Most times on base as leadoff hitter

Below is a list of Major League Baseball players with the most times on base from the leadoff spot as of the end of the 2020 season.[7]

Rank Player TOB
1 Rickey Henderson * 5,412
2 Pete Rose 4,181
3 Eddie Yost 3,243
4 Brett Butler 3,237
5 Ichiro Suzuki 3,202
Rank Player TOB
6 Lou Brock * 3,080
7 Kenny Lofton 3,018
8 Craig Biggio * 2,777
9 Paul Molitor * 2,732
10 Johnny Damon 2,701

Most games played as leadoff hitter

Below is a list of Major League Baseball players with the most games played in the leadoff spot as of the end of the 2020 season.[8]

Rank Player G
1 Rickey Henderson * 2,886
2 Pete Rose 2,313
3 Lou Brock * 1,901
4 Brett Butler 1,858
5 Ichiro Suzuki 1,827
Rank Player G
6 Eddie Yost 1,741
7 Kenny Lofton 1,711
8 Johnny Damon 1,584
9 Paul Molitor * 1,573
10 Harry Hooper * 1,568

Most plate appearances as leadoff hitter

Below is a list of Major League Baseball players with the most plate appearances from the leadoff spot as of the end of the 2020 season.[9]

Rank Player PA
1 Rickey Henderson * 13,122
2 Pete Rose 10,710
3 Lou Brock * 8,653
4 Ichiro Suzuki 8,451
5 Brett Butler 8,432
Rank Player PA
6 Eddie Yost 8,023
7 Kenny Lofton 7,929
8 Johnny Damon 7,411
9 Craig Biggio * 7,297
10 Paul Molitor * 7,291

See also

References

  1. ^ "Most career leadoff home runs in MLB history".
  2. ^ Petriello, Mike (September 24, 2021). "There's never been a leadoff hitter like Soler". MLB.com. MLB. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  3. ^ Edwards, Craig (August 16, 2018). "Betts, Carpenter, and the Evolution of the Leadoff Hitter". FanGraphs.com. FanGraphs. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  4. ^ Kram, Zach (March 31, 2017). "The Batting Order Revolution Will Be Televised". theringer.com. The Ringer. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  5. ^ Paine, Neil (April 20, 2017). "Baseball's New Leadoff Hitters Don't Need To Be Speed Demons". FiveThirtyEight.com. FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  6. ^ Kram, Zach (March 31, 2017). "The Batting Order Revolution Will Be Televised". theringer.com. The Ringer. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  7. ^ "Batting Split Finder". Stathead.com. Sports Reference. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  8. ^ "Batting Split Finder". Stathead.com. Sports Reference. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  9. ^ "Batting Split Finder". Stathead.com. Sports Reference. Retrieved 26 January 2021.