The Cubs had major problems from the leadoff spot last year. Cubs hitters batting first in the order hit .212/.294/.383, the worst numbers in the major leagues. Granted that the “leadoff hitter” can only be guaranteed leading off an inning once a game, the situation still calls for a fix.
Manager David Ross has one:
Breaking news Kris Bryant will leadoff for the Cubs— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) February 19, 2020
Bryant on leading off “ I also am excited about getting that extra at bat leading off “ Bryant said he will also reach out to others who have been successful leadoff men for tips. ( Dexter Fowler ??)— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) February 19, 2020
It’s interesting that Kris Bryant mentions reaching out to Dexter Fowler. Fowler has maintained friendships with his former Cubs teammates, and while Fowler was Cubs leadoff man he had an outstanding on-base percentage: .350 while batting in the No. 1 spot in 2015, .393 in 2016. (Those numbers account for all but 23 of his plate appearances in those two seasons.) Former manager Joe Maddon referred to Dex’s leadoff abilities as “You go, we go,” and often that was true.
Bryant has not done much leading off in his MLB career — just seven games’ worth, in which he hit .321/.387/.464. That’s 9-for-28 with a walk, a very, very small sample size. The next home run he hits from that spot will be his first.
The key here, I think, is that Bryant seems stoked to do this. So much of succeeding in baseball is having the right mental attitude about it, and KB appears to have that.
Will it drop his RBI count? Probably, but who cares? If he can post a .387 OBP from the leadoff spot, that will help jumpstart many innings. Given that Bryant’s career OBP is .385, I’d think that putting up an on-base percentage in that range is absolutely doable. It would be a considerable improvement over last year, and far better than the .331 OBP that was the National League average out of the leadoff spot in 2019, and the .335 MLB on-base percentage by hitters batting first last year.
Things seem to be coming together for the 2020 Cubs. This is a good thing to see. Just three more days until actual baseball on the field.