Peter Bourjos‘ return from the DL just can’t come soon enough for the Los Angeles Angels.
Fortunately for the team, that’s slated to happen on Monday, which means that finally, the Erick Aybar Leadoff Experience can come to a close. Now, say what you will about the decision to move Mike Trout down to the No. 2 spot early in the season, but one thing is for certain: the leadoff spot has been a giant hole for the team pretty much ever since.
As a collective, the Angels are getting a .268/.310/.386 triple-slash with just three stolen bases from the team’s table setters, which is to say that the tables aren’t being set nearly often enough. Now, considering that the best of the bunch, Bourjos, has a .310/.379/.431 line through 58 at-bats in from the top spot … and I think you can see where this is going.
In short: Aybar hasn’t been leading in much other than the team’s out-making department (okay, that might be an exaggeration) from the leadoff spot.
Sure, he’s still getting his share of hits due to his high 89.4 percent contact rate, but aside from being able to slap doubles (10 of 12 from the top of the order), his on-base skills are practically negligible. With just three walks in 130 at-bats as the leadoff man, Aybar has become what is essentially a two-outcome hitter — base hit or out.
Though his .641 OPS (.623 from leadoff) should tell you enough about that, this is somewhat represented in his day-to-day performances. Case in point: over his last nine games, Aybar has had five multi-hit games. The other four games? All 0-fers, leaving his batting average at a just-decent .275 in that stretch.
And of course, being that he hasn’t drawn a single walk over his last 14 games, it’s doing little to help his overall line either.
The Angels should have known that this would happen, though. Even in his excellent 3.7 fWAR 2012 season that saw him post a .740 OPS, Aybar’s biggest struggles also came from the leadoff spot, as he’d hit just .225/.263/.268 over 71 at-bats from the top of the order then.
Proper lineup usage can mean a whole lot of things for players, and it this case, it turns Aybar from a very useful shortstop into an offensive non-factor barely hanging on to replacement level production. Putting him at the no. 1 spot is a well that’s been empty for some time, and the sooner the Angels can stop drawing from it, the better off their chances will be of salvaging something from this disastrous 2013 season thus far.