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Matchup/Game Thread Game # 71 vs. Twins

Brad Radke Roy Oswalt
5 - 7, 5.83 6 - 3, 3.21

So how about the the new Tom Verducci, in which the usually sensible senior SI writer suggests that, despite his .338 OBP, Jose Reyes might be the best leadoff hitter in the NL?

As counterintuitive postulates go, it ain't superstring theory, but for baseball, it'll do quite nicely. The idea that you should judge your leadoff hitter primarilly by how well he scores runs, while seeming kind of sensible, actually confuses cause and effect in the established order. Traditionally, it has been the leadoff hitter's job to get on, and it has been the third-place and cleanup hitters' job to score him. The first part is measured quite well by OBP, but the second part, with the sabermetricians' de-emphasis of the RBI, and the general idea that RBI's don't correlate with talent all that well, has sort of been floating in limbo.

Verducci wants to give the credit back to the guy who scored the run.

Who does score the most per time on base? Once the guy singles, is scoring a run from there a repeatable skill? Considering that Jose Reyes gets to trot home quite a bit after Wright or Delgado hit another jack, I'm not sure how valid any of this is. Certainly Reyes isn't teaching Wright his plate discipline . . .

But even if there is something to this idea, is it best measured as runs per time on base, or as runs per plate appearance?

Since I look at everything through Astros-colored glasses, I thought I'd take a look at this.

First thing I did was see who does well on the Astros in this Runs/Time On Base thang:

Runs Per Time On Base
Astro OBP Times
Runs Runs/
Wandy Rodriguez .107 3 4 1.333
Orlando Palmeiro .262 16 9 .563
Willy Taveras .319 85 38 .447
Mike Lamb .386 56 25 .446
Jason Lane .345 81 33 .407
Craig Biggio .342 96 38 .396
Chris Burke .395 51 20 .392
Morgan Ensberg .384 106 41 .387
Lance Berkman .393 107 37 .346
Adam Everett .284 66 22 .333
Preston Wilson .312 86 27 .314
Eric Munson .303 23 6 .261
Andy Pettitte .133 5 1 .200
Brad Ausmus .359 80 17 .213
Eric Bruntlett .369 31 6 .194
Roy Oswalt .188 7 1 .143
Taylor Buchholz .040 1 0 .000
Fernando Nieve .235 5 0 .000
Brandon Backe .333 1 0 .000
Well. Wandy's a monster. If the rest of Houston's players could only score one and a third runs every time they got on base, we'd be set.

Actually, what's going on there is that I figured times on base as most would: by adding hits and walks and hit by pitches. I guess what happened is that Wandy reached on an error one time and scored then, too. Does anybody remember the play?

But more to the point, check out Willy. He's not scoring half the time when he gets on, like Reyes, but he does lead regulars on the team.

What happens when we look at Runs Scored per plate appearance ?

Runs Per Plate Appearance
Astro TPA R R/PA
Mike Lamb 146 25 .171
Chris Burke 129 20 .155
Morgan Ensberg 276 41 .149
Orlando Palmeiro 62 9 .145
Willy Taveras 265 38 .143
Jason Lane 234 33 .141
Lance Berkman 272 37 .136
Craig Biggio 282 38 .135
Wandy Rodriguez 33 4 .121
Preston Wilson 276 27 .098
Adam Everett 231 22 .095
Eric Munson 76 6 .079
Brad Ausmus 224 17 .076
Eric Bruntlett 85 6 .071
Andy Pettitte 34 1 .029
Roy Oswalt 38 1 .026
Of course when you figure OBP into it, Burke is going to rise and Willy's gonna drop. but have you noticed that under either system, Willy scores runs at a better rate than Biggio?

I don't know. I think we're basically looking at an expression of RBI ability. Maybe Taveras has some small ability over Biggio (and even here I doubt), but both score more times than Berkman because (when he doesn't homer) Berkman has been relying on Wilson and Lane to drive him in, whereas Willy and Bidge have had Lance.

  . . .

OK. I've looked at it, I considered this idea, and yes, I think it is bullshit. I believe I'll dance with who brung me, as they say in Texas. Leadoff guys get on, run producers drive them in; the causality does not flow backward.

But before I put this to bed, I took a look around the league to see what other leadoff-type guys (in theory or in practice) were doing. Just for fun, I put their batting average when leading off.

runs per plate appearance leaguewide*
player # 1 avg r/pa
ramirez, fl .252 .186
reyes, nym .273 .176
soriano, was .308 .168
furcal, lad .252 .164
rollins, phi .260 .163
eckstein, stl .322 .143
taveras, hou .205 .143
biggio, hou .277 .135
*done up viva el birdos style!
I know that I'm passing on an opportunity to make a case that Taveras has done his job as well as Eckstein has done his, but while the Astros are always first in my heart, the truth has its own imperative. Eckstein has the .322 batting average out of the leadoff slot, and the .383 OBP overall. Taveras has had a little bit better luck, that's all.