Alfonso Soriano should be the lead-off hitter for the Cubs this season

Alfonso Soriano should be the lead-off hitter for the Cubs this season

Dale Sveum is impressed with Alfonso Soriano (don't implode with anger) at the lead-off spot. This comes as a surprise to many Cubs fans, Soriano hasn't been exactly a "lead-off quality" batter over the past few seasons, if even at all, only batting tops for one game. The season before that, Soriano didn't even have a single at bat leading off.

It'd be easy to wonder why this is a decision worth entertaining if you are new skipper Dale Sveum. Sveum would be - by popular opinion, under a microscope of sorts in this new era of the "Cubs Way".  Many assumed two key moves in "Aeon Theo",

And those moves would be:

1. Get rid of Carlos Zambrano

2. Get rid of Alfonso Soriano

Zambrano was immediately moved to Miami, with cash in his breast pocket for Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen. Soriano however, is not only staying with the Cubs as presently constituted - he got a vote of confidence too.

It would be safe to say that Alfonso has earned his money in the leadoff spot. He has well over 3,000 more at bats in that lineup spot than any other. He also has saw his most productive offense - as far as career numbers are concerned - in that very position. This table shows exactly how contrast the production numbers are for Soriano when he isn't leading off, compared to when he is in the top of the order,

 

PA   HR   RBI   BB   SO   BA   OBP   SLG
1st 3630 197 457 224 742    .288 .338 .538
2nd 40 0 1 0 9 .125 .125 .200
3rd 700 29 92 39 142 .260 .310 .450
4th 62 2 3 5 18 .196 .258 .339
5th 776 39 133 44 141 .258 .309 .492
6th 798 36 113 53 183 .265 .315 .495
7th 349 17 61 16 72 .261 .299 .486
8th 236 5 24 7 45 .302 .332 .437
9th 325 15 43 22 71 .244 .293 .462

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com

Sveum didn't set the lineup in stone, but he did use Soriano in the leadoff spot during the team's intrasquad game Friday. The insert wasn't a direct indication of Soriano maintaining leadoff position, but he didn't rule it out indefinite. When asked about he possibility of Sori starting lead Sveum told the Chicago Tribune,

"You can possibly see just about anything," he said of his lineups. "But like I said, the middle of March, (maybe) March 20, you'll find out that I have made up my mind."

And Soriano wasn't opposed to the possibility, or any other possibility for that matter,

"I don't know my last time leading off here, two or three years ago?" he said. "I told the manager today I'm open to any decision he makes. The most important thing is I'm feeling good. We'll see what happens."

Newly acquired Dejesus looks to set spark in Cubs lineup

 

There are many possibilities as to who will be the main lead hitter for the Cubs - with David Dejesus leading the pack. I myself, have been a long fan of young superstar shortstop Starlin Castro developing into a productive lead-off batter. His speed, power combination always reminded me of a, well - Alfonso Soriano, in his prime. Tony Campana is another option with considerable speed, but not much big league experience to make a sure handed decision.

Many fans may balk at the idea of Soriano leading off for the 2012 Chicago Cubs, however this may be the best option and most productive for a unidentified Cubs lineup. Having Soriano in his most productive lineup spot in his career may give the lineup some resemblance of consistency from technical standpoint, as long as he produces.

Numbers alone should prove that Soriano is worthy, however his recent production and absence from the lead spot has caused some concern in the Cubs community. In the past two seasons, Soriano only saw 2 plate appearances. In 2009, Sori batted .228, hit 14 home runs and struck out 74 times, his lowest statistical performance batting in the top of the order.

Soriano is now 36yrs old. His up's and down's for the Cubs clubhouse have been well documented. He was spotted working out with young superstar Starlin Castro during winter workouts in their home country of the Dominican Republic, and he even appears to be taking on a role as mentor to the shortstop. For all the right reason's I am excited about Soriano's recent implementation from the cellar of the lineup to a more productive spot.

At one point in time for the Chicago Cubs, Alfonso Soriano was an MVP. Prior to that, he was  a world champion. He posses the experience, skills, and leadership capabilities to assume a role as the wise vet. He also has the track record that proves he can be efficient in the lineup that desperately needs a leader by example.

In order for the Cubs to be on track this season, they will undoubtedly need Soriano's assistance - as long as he is on the roster. Whether or not he will make those contributions in the lead-off spot will depend on his focus. He has done it before, let's just hope he can still compete at the big league level and that Theo, Sveum and Hoyer are all making the right decision by keeping him a Cub.

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  • Curtis, I respectfully disagree with you on this one. I know Soriano has done better in that spot but 1) a .338 OBP is still not good for a leadoff man and 2) He batted leadoff in the prime of his career, so his numbers should be better in that spot. He's no longer in his prime.

    For Soriano, my hope is that he performs well enough to be productive and that he does a better job of grinding out ABs. He's not the same guy who could hit a ball off his shoetops and on to Waveland Ave anymore. If he is going to succeed, he's going to have to be a bit more selective.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree that he was definitely more productive in the prime of his career in that spot. I just hope that with maturity, comes patience, which to some degree is the only thing that he lacks in his at bats. I think he still has the skill to effectively bat the spot and the pop to add power to it, it's whether or not his selection and focus changes enough to warrant the move back.

    I also feel as presently constituted, the only other options for Sveum would be unproven. At least with Sori in the lead-off (maybe at least to begin the season), the Cubs will have a sense of stability to work off of. Sans stolen bases, OBP, if we could get anything near the scoring production out of Fons' like in 07 and 08, I think they can be successful and inevitable have more flexibility in working in some youth or other options for the future.

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