Dear Dodgers, Just Bat Mookie Betts Leadoff Already
The question of who should bat leadoff for the Dodgers has finally been answered, right?
On Thursday night, Mookie Betts put up the best performance of the 2020 MLB season from the top spot in the Dodgers' lineup, batting 4-for-4 with three home runs and five RBI. Betts led a breakout for a previously struggling lineup in an 11-2 pummeling of the San Diego Padres.
The home-run trifecta was the sixth of Betts' career, now in its seventh MLB season. That tied him with Sammy Sosa and Hall of Famer Johnny Mize. And to the delight of Dodgers fans, Betts could add plenty more three-homer games to his resumé over the next 12 seasons to come.
Yet Betts has only batted leadoff in six of the Dodgers' 20 games thus far.
Manager Dave Roberts has rotated several batters in the top spot this season to varying levels of success. Max Muncy has hit .150 with a .546 OPS in 26 plate appearances, while Joc Pederson has an .080 average and .407 average in 29 PAs. The clear winner is Betts, whose 29 PAs leading off have resulted in a .440 average, 1.517 OPS, four homers, and eight RBI.
Asked if he'll keep Betts in the leadoff spot after his monster Thursday night, Roberts seemed to acknowledge that it was the best decision.
For a manager who sometimes outsmarts himself trying to find the best matchup advanced metrics can provide -- or just making weird lineups, as Howard put it -- the best answer is the obvious one.
Betts has excelled batting leadoff throughout his career, compiling a .304 average, .917 OPS, 177 doubles, 114 home runs, 350 RBI, and 89 stolen bases. He won the American League MVP in 2018 in that spot. Betts says he's "comfortable" there. Why try to tinker with something that clearly works?
Sure, maybe there was a temptation to see how Betts could do in more of a run-producing spot. Could he see better pitches with men on base? But in this shortened 2020 season, there's less time to experiment. And one-third of the schedule has been played now.
Don't overthink this, Dave Roberts. Lead off with Betts.
Ian Casselberry watchdogs sports media for Awful Announcing. He's covered baseball for SB Nation, Yahoo Sports and MLive, and was one of Bleacher Report's first lead MLB writers. Please follow Ian on Twitter @iancass and give him a listen at The Podcass.