I do radio hits almost every day. Before I do them, I ask each respective show producer to send me a few topics their on air talent wants to talk about. This ensures I don’t get blindsided by off-the-wall subjects and, consequently, end up looking more ignorant than I already am.
On today’s list of TSN 1050 morning show topics was, “who do you like leading off better, Tulo or Revere.” I prepared to talk about it, and then, as is often the case, the show started and we ended up talking about something else completely.
Instead, I get the privilege of answering the question here.
So, who do I like in the lead-off spot better?
This question is not as simple as you might think. If you go to Baseball Reference and you look at what Tulo and Revere have done in their career—the full body of work—you’d easily throw Revere in the lead-off spot and Tulo in some RBI producing spot in the batting order because they both seem better suited for those respective roles.
Here are their career numbers in each capacity:
Looking at their averages on leading-off a game, and their BA in the Batting 1st position seems to show that, in a vacuum, the clear choice is to bat Revere 1st and Tulo in the 3, 4, or 5 spot.
Also, look at Tulo’s numbers leading off an inning. As long as it’s NOT the first inning of the game, wow, that’s great stuff, huh? More incentive to stick Revere their, right?
But this is not a vacuum. It’s the Toronto Blue Jays of 2015, the team ESPN’s Tony Blengino says is the most powerful offensive club this century (still a lot of century left, mind you).
So, lets exit the vacuum and consider how a line up turns over and the amount of chances a player has to impact a game from all angles, with the assumption that the closer you bat to the top of the order, the more chances you’ll have to hit.
We can’t look at the lead-off spot as a straight up comparison game because baseball isn’t a match up of lead-off men versus lead-off men and so on down the order. It’s about how the order works together, and the most probably turnovers that a line up will see. In a vacuum or not, just because of the way the numbers work, putting a better all around hitter in the lead-off position will yield a better result than putting in a hitter whose only real strength is leading-off a game.
Tulo is a great all around hitter, and he is, as some like to call him, an RBI machine. But you know who is also an RBI machine? Pretty much everyone else in the Blue Jays line up, with emphasis on Josh Donaldson, who is flanked by Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion. They have 100, 87, and 75 RBI respectively. Collabello, the team’s sleeper-star, hitting .332 with a .900 OPS, has 49RBI! What are you going to do, rearrange that mash-factory just to stick Tulo into a spot where he can do what’s already being done?
The better choice is to look at what Tulo can do, has done, and is doing: be a versatile impact player. Try looking at him in a lead-off situation beyond that first at-bat and understand how that works.
“Traditional lineup construction states that a speed guy has to hit first, followed by a “bat-control” type, preferably a left-handed hitter to take advantage of the open right side when the leadoff man reaches and the first baseman has to hold him on. Your best overall hitter bats third and the big power threat hits fourth.
What that sort of construction means, though, is that a team has to get through a weaker hitter or two before the big sticks get to the plate. Table-setters are nice to have, but they really only get to set the table once. Then after the first inning, those table-setters get to come up before the big sticks do, which often results in the big run-scoring situations placed in the hands of those guys while the better hitters sit by and wait for their turn with men on base, which may never come.”
Tulo does hit very well after his first at-bat, and he can drive in runs, work counts to get on base—OBP of .340 despite being in a slump right now—steal said bases, and do damage when the second lead off crew gets on, aka, your 8 and 9 guy (should you be lucky enough to have one, and the Jays are).
Revere can lead off, it’s true, but he has no pop. Which means that, plugging him in the oder in a location that, A) comes up the most during the course of the game, B) often sees runners in scoring position thanks to the way the The Gauntlet destroys a pitcher’s approach, C) will be asked to single handedly change the course of the game, isn’t the best idea. Leading him off is not a bad idea—in a vacuum—but when you have an option to lead off with someone like Tulo, you take it, and you don’t let Tulo’s mini-slump fool you into what is, over all, a solid strategy with a solid hitter.
Moreover, the Rangers are a team that Tulo destroys. If you were waiting for his batting average to go up before you gave this trade your blessing, then you might finally get your wish:
Clearly Tulo is not afraid to mess with Texas…
Finally, in yesterday’s game, Tulo got 3 hits. There was some rumor as to “the book being out” on Tulo, and opposing pitchers successfully pounding Tulo inside to get him out, thus explaining his lack of production.
Well… this was the tie-it-up hit.
And overall, on the night:
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