For the most part, intra-squad games in Spring Training is nothing to exciting. The only good thing intra-squad games provide is a joke when someone asks “if the Cubs won today?’ and the reply is “Yes, because they were playing the Cubs.” Granted there is usually excitement for the first intra-squad game as that is usually the first game action that the players have seen since the previous season. The Cubs are playing their first intra-squad game on Friday. But there will be something on display during the game that Cubs’ fans were promised they would never see again. Alfonso Soriano will be batting leadoff for one of the teams.
Manager Dale Sveum told reporters today that he has yet to set his opening day lineup, but it is possible that Soriano could bat leadoff at some points during the regular season. Unlike the days of Mike Quade and the latter days of Lou Piniella, Sveum seems to be open to the idea of Soriano being a leadoff hitter once again.
“The one thing about Soriano is that his numbers as a leadoff hitter are pretty good in his career,” Sveum said. “Whether he’s leading off a game or leading off an inning, his numbers are pretty incredible over his career. If you want to get into the details of why you might come up with something like that it could be as simple as that.” ESPN Chicago
If Soriano had his choice, there is no doubt that he would have been the Cubs’ leadoff hitter since the day that he signed with the team prior to the 2007 season. Soriano loves the leadoff position, and there be no secrets as to why he does. It is common knowledge in baseball that whenever a hitter leadoff the game–or an inning for that matter–he likely will receive a fastball in an attempt by the pitcher to get one over the plate. That is where Soriano earned his reputation. In his 3,341 career at bats in the leadoff sport, Soriano has produced a hitting line of .288/.338/.538/877 to go along with 197 home runs and 457 RBIs. Soriano’s 3,341 at bats is by the far the most he has had in his career over any other position in the lineup. But it does not take away from the fact that Soriano’s hitting line is at it’s best when he is a leadoff hitter. But as I alluded to, it is not rocket science. The reason Soriano is lethal in the leadoff spot is because he takes advantage of the fastball that is thrown to him. When Soriano is down in the middle of the lineup, that is when pitchers can really exploit the flaws in Soriano’s swing. The flaws being that at this point in his career, Soriano struggles to hit any pitch that is not a fastball.
Soriano in the leadoff spot may be a nice Spring Training project for Sveum, but there is no need to worry. Come Opening Day, David DeJesus will be the leadoff hitter while Soriano will be somewhere between the 4-5-6 spots in the lineup. All will be normal once again.