Angel Pagan in the Leadoff Spot

On August 1, Angel Pagan had a .239 batting average, .308 OBP, and .651 OPS. In short, he was in the midst of a dreadful season. After Jose Reyes went on the DL, Pagan took over the leadoff spot in the order. For the month of August, Pagan is hitting .377 with a .403 OBP and .977 OPS — quite a hot streak. It made me wonder if entering the leadoff spot in the order had anything to do with the drastic change in Pagan’s offensive performance.

At first glance, it might appear to be that way. However, Pagan started hitting better about a week before taking over as the leadoff hitter — so for all we know he might be hitting this well regardless of his spot in the order. Still, it got me to thinking, because Pagan did hit pretty well in 2010 — again, when he was predominantly hitting #1 in the order. But memory is not as reliable as the stats, so I checked them out; here are Pagan’s career splits, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:

As you can see, Pagan clearly hits much better when positioned in the #1 and #6 spots of the lineup. Does it mean anything? Hard to say, since any stathead worth his salt would scream “small sample size!”. But still, it’s interesting to ponder and discuss.

As someone who has played and coached baseball, I know for a fact that there are players who will take a different approach to their at-bats depending on where they hit in the lineup. It may not make sense, but they do. Some players, when put in the leadoff spot, take a more patient approach then if they were, say, in the #5. And then there are players who put internal pressure on themselves if they hit #3 or #4 (I still think Mike Jacobs had a mental block about hitting cleanup).

Again, I am willing to believe that Pagan’s hot streak coinciding with batting leadoff is most likely a coincidence. And I’m willing to admit that the above-referenced numbers are too small a sample size to draw any concrete conclusions. But, this season is in the tank, and finding interesting subjects to discuss is becoming more limited as the race to mathematical elimination draws near. So, is anyone up for an old-fashioned discussion? What do you think? Could there be anything to this Pagan in the leadoff spot thing? Might he, for whatever reason, be more focused, confident, or comfortable in the #1 spot? Speak your mind in the comments.

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Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. NormE August 22, 2011 at 8:22 am
    I like Pagan in the two hole when Reyes is in front of him.
    The speed dynamic, along with the two switch hitters, hitting in front of the bigger bats is something that is missing when Reyes/Pagan is number one and someone else is number two.
    The disruptive speed of Reyes/Pagan should, in theory, cause concentration problems for the pitcher leading to better hitting pitches for Wright, Davis, et al.
    Collins was using Pagan at # 6 because the injuries to Wright and Davis, along with Bay’s slump, left the Mets thin lower in the order. Pagan responded well. But, with
    everyone healthy Reyes, Pagan, Wright, Davis are a pretty decent first four.