The people have spoken: Daniel Nava is the runaway choice of OTM readers to be the leadoff hitter against right-handed pitching in 2014. In the end, it wasn't even close: Nava had 62 percent of the total votes cast, with Shane Victorino being the only other hitter to make it to double digits.
I have to admit that I was surprised by the results of the poll—until I actually looked at the right-hand platoon splits, and saw Nava's Garin Cecchini-esque on-base efficiency. A 0.411 OBP is going to get you a lot of fans—especially if it's against right-handed pitching. Of course, it's not just OTM that's fallen in love with such wonderful numbers. If you feed in the Red Sox's right-handed platoon splits into a tool such as Baseball Musings' lineup generator, you'll quickly find that it loves the idea of Nava leading off just as much as you do. In fact, give it the Sox's right-handed splits, and you'll find that Nava is the leadoff guy in every single lineup that places in the top 30 most productive possibilities. The guys behind him change quite substantially, but Nava is the fixed point at the top of the lineup. (Amusingly, the tool also gives you the thirty worst possible lineups. There are actually two constants in all of those lineups: David Ortiz bats eighth, and Will Middlebrooks leads off. I'll leave you to contemplate the horrors of what such a lineup would look like on your own.)
As I mentioned, I was surprised at this consensus. While I contemplated putting Nava first, I think I personally would have wanted someone who is a bit more of a speedster in the top spot, and taking advantage of Nava's plate discipline and on-base ability to manufacture some runs by putting him in the number two spot. Or perhaps he could lengthen the lineup a little bit more as the prototypical number five hitter.
Ultimately, I think what I'd most like to see is for Jackie Bradley, Jr. develop into a capable leadoff hitter, which would allow Nava to slide out of the spot. However, putting him in that role to soon is probably inadvisable; let him grow into the role, the same way they did for Pedroia in 2007.
So now we're on to the number two spot in the roster. Here are your remaining candidates, plus their OBP and slugging against right-handed pitching:
- 1B: Mike Napoli: 0.353/0.464
- 2B: Dustin Pedroia: 0.345/0.376
- SS: Xander Bogaerts: 0.320/0.364 (note: no splits because of small sample size)
- 3B: Will Middlebrooks: 0.244/0.412
- CF: Jackie Bradley Jr.: 0.308/0.414
- RF: Shane Victorino: 0.386/0.510
- C: A.J. Placeholder*: 0.286/0.438
- DH: David Ortiz: 0.440/0.652
- LF/1B: Mike Carp: 0.367/0.537
- LF/1B: Jonny Gomes: 0.341/0.404
- CF: Grady Sizemore: 0.300/0.452 (note: data from 2011)
- C: David Ross: 0.298/0.382 (note: no splits because of small sample size)
So there are your options. Pick your number two hitter. We'll leave the voting open during the weekend, and pick up again early next week.