An unorthodox suggestion from Buster Olney this week had the Cubs going with a leadoff hitter platoon: Ben Zobrist against lefties, and … Kyle Schwarber against righties. It got me thinking about both that suggestion and the lineup, generally.
Now, then. As presently constructed, the Cubs probably don’t have a clear, obvious, prototypical leadoff guy, so there are actually quite a few reasonable arguments to be had about who should land the job.
In that respect, I have no beef with Olney’s suggestion. After all, Schwarber does project to get on base at a fair clip, and, although he does have massive power, he’s also got an incredible hit tool, which could, overall, do just fine in the leadoff spot. He’s not a burner on the bases, but he runs well enough, and it’s not like this Cubs team is going to need a lot of stolen bases out of the leadoff spot to score runs.
… but would you actually do it?
It certainly makes for an interesting discussion, and, if we were going with unorthodox leadoff hitters who are good overall and get on base a lot, wouldn’t Anthony Rizzo also be an interesting suggestion? Rizzo’s .387 OBP led the team by a wide margin last year, though some of that was due to a herculean HBP total that will probably come down a little bit this year.
Still, I’d probably rather see Rizzo’s – and Schwarber’s – power utilized behind other hitters.
When it comes to constructing a lineup, it’s important to remember that the expected run total difference between a perfectly optimized lineup and a completely random lineup is relatively small. It’s not worth stressing about too much.
In general, I just want to see Rizzo, Schwarber, and Kris Bryant hitting back-to-back-to-back in some order, sandwiched by Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist in some order. Even within those guidelines, there are all kinds of permutations you can put together that would make me plenty happy.
And, hey, how about if Jorge Soler and Addison Russell both break out offensively? How about if Miguel Montero stays an above average offensive player? How about if Chris Coghlan and Javier Baez must be worked in regularly because they’re killing it offensively, too?
Like I said: the precise order of the lineup might not wind up mattering all that much.