Why Desmond Jennings is a Good Leadoff Hitter*

*versus lefties

If you’re wondering about who will be the Rays leadoff hitter this year you can stop now. Desmond Jennings and David DeJesus form a formidable leadoff duo against each type of pitcher and the Rays can look forward to having them this year. While Jennings overall line leaves something to be desired, that is mostly due to a widish platoon split which somewhat obscures some really good numbers against lefties.

I looked at all 432 Major Leaguers that compiled 500+ PA from 2010 – 14 to see where Jennings placed amongst his peers against lefties:

The first column shows his raw output for each of the categories. Numbers look good, but it helps to bring in context so let’s convert that to a Z-score in the second row. Note that I am looking at the inverse in the case of K% and IFFB% where you would rather have a lower number. We immediately see that his IFFB% is probably his worst attribute, though his K% isn’t good and he doesn’t seem to get as many infield hits as you would expect from a guy who’s best skill (relative to his peers) is his speed.

We can get more specific in the third row by ranking each of those z-scores out of the 432 players looked at, but the fourth row might be easier to interpret because I have turned those ranks into percentages which are probably a little more intuitive. I’d consider his BB%, OBP, and speed (#1 in the game!) to be elite compared to his brethren and those are inarguably the best attributes for a leadoff man. A step down from those elite skills, albeit not much, you can find his SLG and ISO meaning he’s got a good amount of pop to go with the ability to get on and over.

The infield fly balls are a drawback which occurs enough to be frustrating and when paired with his below average strikeout rate you find a guy who’s not going to have a high batting average without overcoming these weaknesses. His issues with righties are always going to damper his overall line, but when you dig into this stuff further you find an excellent hitter against lefties who also possesses the skills of a true leadoff hitter. Enjoy players for what they are, not what they aren’t.

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About Jason Hanselman

Rays fan.
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