Leading off …

The offense is rolling — there’s no question about that. Entering action tonight at home against the Texas Rangers, the Toronto Blue Jays lead the American League in batting average (.290), hits (146), runs scored (87) and RBIs (81). So if it’s offense that the Jays need to overcome a thin pitching staff, that certainly hasn’t been a problem.

Blue Jays Mariners BaseballPerhaps surprisingly, it has all started at the leadoff spot this year. Considered a weak area heading into spring training, the role has been filled admirably by Marco Scutaro – the same man who played just 25 games in the leadoff position last year. So far in 2009, though, he has flourished in that role.

Through 14 games, in which he has led off and played shortstop in each, Scutaro has posted a .283 average with an impressive .418 on-base percentage (second only to Adam Lind for the team high). In addition, he has more walks (12) than strikeouts (8), and has scored a team-high 15 runs. That mark ties Baltimore outfielder Adam Jones for the most in the majors, while the aforementioned 12 walks matches Chone Figgins for the major-league lead among leadoff hitters.

Scutaro hasn’t acknowledged himself a changed approach at the plate – in fact, he told The Star’s Morgan Campbell recently, “If I’m playing every day, I don’t care where they put me.” Cito Gaston has also admitted that the 33-year-old is probably better suited to hit No. 2. But it’s been obvious to Blue Jay followers that Scutaro has altered his game early this year to better suit the role of table setter and offensive catalyst.

That was never more apparent than last Saturday during Toronto’s 4-2 12-inning win over the Oakland A’s. With the game knotted at two runs apiece, Scutaro put on a perfect display of the prototypical leadoff hitter. It started with a leadoff walk. Then, in an effort to get into scoring position, he made the rare advance from first to second on a deep fly ball to centre off the bat of Aaron Hill.

There’s only one thing better than a runner on second with one out: a runner on third with one out. With that in mind, Scutaro took advantage of a non-alert Oakland A’s battery to swipe third base. Unfortunately for the Jays, they were unable to cash in on Scutaro’s aggressive baserunning that inning. But efforts like that will go a long way in maintaining the offensive splendour that the Blue Jays are currently enjoying.

No natural leadoff hitter? No problem, says Cito Gaston. We’ll just create one.

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2 Responses to “Leading off …”

  1. BD Says:

    Nice article.

    It will be very interesting to see how long Scutaro can be effective at the leadoff position. Hes not your traditional leadoff hitter but if he can continue to show good plate discipline than he will be exactly what this team needs from the #1 spot. Unfortunately, I think he will likely return to his .265/.330 numbers hes averaged throughout his career.

  2. eyebleaf Says:

    If Scoots is our biggest problem in the leadoff role all year, it’s going to be a glorious season.

    Viva Venezuela.

    His defense has improved, too.

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