Plenty of blame can go around, and the finger pointing can be directed at just about every player in the San Diego Padres lineup, but if they look to save the 2014 season from complete destruction, they need better production out of their leadoff hitter, Everth Cabrera. Strikeouts as a whole are killing the Padres this season, and there is no excuse for the one spot in a lineup to lead a team in this category.
The main goal of a leadoff hitter is to work the count, hit the ball on the ground, and at all costs, avoid striking out. Take pitches, make a pitcher work and rack up the pitches, and then drive the ball into the gap. He should be the spark plug that starts off a game and makes things happen, but so far, now already two months into the 2014 season, Everth Cabrera is failing to do any of these. With 245 at-bats on the season, he has managed to find himself with his head down, heading back to the dugout after striking out 59 times on the season, and earning a base on balls just 11 times. Walking only 11 times in more than 250 plate appearances is unacceptable for a leadoff hitter, and the decision by manager, Bud Black to stay with him in the one spot is mind-boggling. Black, who seemingly finds it impossible to find any kind of consistency in the lineup, for some reason, has used Cabrera as the leadoff hitter in 45 of the 61 games played this season.
To date, Cabrera’s on-base-percentage ranks at 397 in MLB, as he sits at a ridiculously low level of .273 on the season. What is also note-worthy is that there is only a 32 point separation between his batting average of .241 and his OBP. It points to the already mentioned fact that he does not draw walks, and does not earn his way on base. These figures do not point to a productive leadoff hitter, and if Bud Black continues to use him in this spot in the lineup, Friars fans can expect more difficult times ahead.
It seems quite obvious to most people with any type of a baseball mind that a leadoff hitter should be at or near the top of the roster in OBP, so perhaps it is time for Bud Black to make some changes to the Padres lineup. While Cabrera leads the team in hits at 59, it is time for someone else to take the role in the leadoff position. One strong candidate would be centerfielder, Cameron Maybin. While Maybin has struggled over the last seven days at the bat, a new look might inject some new life into the sputtering Friars offense. In comparison to Cabrera, Maybin is hitting .295, has an OBP of .337, has struck out 18 times in 95 official at-bats, and has eight doubles on the season.
Strikeouts have killed the Padres this season, and when a leadoff hitter leads the team in strikeouts, it spells doom for a MLB team. Sure, Everth Cabrera may not be the only one to blame, but if a leadoff hitter is one of the spark plugs that makes an engine run, there is no doubt that this spark plug has major faults, and replacing it could possibly make the engine run a bit smoother.
Commentary by Johnny Caito