Thursday, June 10, 2004

Now Leading Off - Doug Mientkiewicz

Doug has now led off three straight games for the Twins. He is not your prototypical leadoff hitter. If not for Matt LeCroy, he quite possibly could be considered the slowest member of the team. What the Twins first baseman does well is get on base.

Everyone likes Shannon Stewart because of his ability to take pitches and set the tone for the rest of the lineup. This is what Mientkiewicz is capable of in the leadoff hole. This year his OBP is down at .326 but he is still has drawn 21 walks. Most players tend to return to their career average as the season progresses. Doug's career OBP is .367. This year that would put him right in the middle of AL leadoff men Johnny Damon .380, Ichiro .379 and Alex Sanchez .355.

Batting Doug first is a good idea while Stewart is out. He sets up the rest of the lineup much the same while also putting himself in a position to score runs. In fact, he has actually scored more runs, 22, then he has batted in, 15. He is caught in the middle of an up and down year but so is the rest of the team right now. His speed should not be an issue as both speedsters Cristian Guzman and Luis Rivas have failed in the role in years past. All that matters is that he gets on base for the rest of the lineup to drive him in.

The rest of the lineup included Lew Ford batting third last night. The Mientkiewicz move also sets this up. Ford has been the team's best most consistent hitter. He has a little bit of speed and can drive in runs. He did a great job leading off but in that spot was not given the opportunity to drive in runs. Batting third he can be fully utilized and with Mientkiewicz getting on base he will have someone to drive in.

Imagine this scenario; Doug leads of and rips a gapper for a double. Guzman comes up and in typical fashion can't lay down a bunt and ends up popping to third for the first out. Now batting Leewwwwwwww Ford. Who promptly rips a single to center scoring Mientkiewicz. If the Twins could get that from the first inning they'd be setting themselves up nicely for the rest of the game. Heck, that lone run is all Brad Radke needs these days. The Twins should keep these two guys in their spots and see where it takes them. So far they have a 3 game winning streak.

Note - Mientkiewicz is only 1/11 batting leadoff and hates the spot in the order. This doesn't mean that he can't be succesful there or help the team most by hitting there. Even 1/11 isn't necessarily terrible if he is being patient and taking pitches.

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