Getting that leadoff man on base …
I’ve had several conversations with new hitting coach Jim Lefebvre in the last month of so about his philosophy and the things he wants to do to improve an offense that ranked last last season in several offensive categories or close to it.
One of the biggest areas Lefebvre wants the Padres to improve upon is having a better on-base percentage from their leadoff hitter each inning. Last season, the Padres ranked last among 30 teams with a .288 average. The league average was .324.
That means, obviously, that too many innings started with the leadoff hitter in each inning making an out. The Padres want to fix that.
“We were starting a ton of innings with one out and no one on,” said Josh Stein, the Padres coordinator of baseball research and advance scouting. “… What Jim wants to preach is it doesn’t matter if you’re the
first hitter or the sixth hitter, your job is to get on base.”
On Wednesday, the Padres played their first game of the spring, a non-counting games for charity, but take a look at what the leadoff hitter did in each of the first five innings.
First inning: Scott Hairston, single.
Third inning: Luis Rodriguez, single (scored).
Fifth inning: Scott Hairston, walk.
Now, only one of those leadoff hitters scored, but it’s obvious that the message Lefebvre is pounding home with these hitters is working. Lefebvre told me this morning that they had 22 counts on Wednesday that favored the hitter. He liked that. The Padres also managed to get 14 guys on base (seven hits, seven walks), which was more than the 11 he was shooting for.
Again, these are small steps and steps made in February. But it’s certainly worth noting.