I addressed this in the comments section of my last post, but feel that it’s become such a popular blogosphere topic that it deserves its own post.
Carlos Ruiz should not be batting first. Or second.
It is true that you want a high on-base percentage out of your leadoff batter. It is also true that Chooch has a .381 OBP. But a .381 OBP in the seven- or eight-hole is not easily translatable to the leadoff spot.
Well, first, keep in mind that Chooch has six intentional walks this year, all of which have been the means to the end of pitching to a pitcher, or to Wilson Valdez. Then factor in his two unpredictable hit-by-pitches, which also contribute to OBP.
Subtract those eight instances, and Ruiz’ OBP goes from .381 to .364. This is still impressive, but you must also recognize that Carlos has received a good amount of unintentional-intentional walks this season, i.e. plate appearances in which he sees nothing but junk.
Chooch would certainly stop seeing as much junk if batting first or second, so even with exceptional plate discipline, his walk rate would decline. If you figure that there is a 10 or 15 point dropoff in OBP from batting 7 or 8 to batting 1 or 2, were looking at about a .350 OBP from Ruiz.
Even with all of his recent struggles, Jimmy Rollins has still maintained a .340 on-base percentage, a figure nearly 100 points higher than his batting average.
So, if the debate is between a slow guy with a .350 OBP and a fast guy with a .340 OBP and years of experience in the leadoff spot, wouldn’t you choose the latter?