Should Gregory Polanco remain the Pirates’ leadoff hitter?


As we all know, the Pittsburgh Pirates have done some shuffling at the top of the lineup early this season. Gregory Polanco has moved from hitting second in the lineup to the leadoff spot. When you look at this, the most obvious reason would be Josh Harrison’s struggles at the plate to start the season. However, Harrison is currently riding a four-game hitting streak, which featured three hits Thursday and four hits Friday, going into Saturday’s match up with the Cubs. Let’s compare this season and last season based on where each, Harrison and Polanco, hit in the batting order.

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Josh Harrison’s struggles are easy to see. He is batting .222/.263/.381 and an OPS of .641. Josh has seen time batting first, second, sixth, and seventh so far this season. When we look at last season, we have to keep in mind that it was a career year. No one could have expected it, and of course that is a big part of Josh getting a new contract earlier this year. At the 30-game mark last season, Josh was hitting .300/.323/.533 with an OPS of .856. He also saw time hitting in every spot in the order but 8th, but, of course, the majority of the time he was hitting in the leadoff spot. The expectation level has been high, perhaps too high, for Josh to come close to last season’s performance. Below are his numbers based on his spot in the lineup.

Just for comparison the chart below shows Josh Harrison’s 2014 numbers based on lineup spot.

After spending the majority of his time hitting in the second spot in the lineup, Gregory Polanco has taken over the leadoff role. He is currently hitting .252/.317/.351 and an OPS of .668. Polanco has had 72 plate appearances while leading off and 61 while batting second. Most of Polanco’s stats are very similar, as you can see in the chart below, whether he hits first or second. Of course, this is only a small sample size, but he does seem to get on base more often and is taking more walks.
Just so you can compare, the chart below shows Polanco’s 2014 numbers based on where he is in the lineup.

For now, I believe they should keep going with Polanco hitting first. The hope would be that Harrison can continue to improve and get back to a level that is anywhere close to his amazing 2014 season. If Polanco can continue to get on base, then I suggest they follow the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” method and leave things alone. However, on Polanco’s days off, if he goes into a long slump or injury, the hope would be that Harrison is ready to step back into the leadoff role. Of course, there are many ifs, but if J-Hay can continue to surge, then Clint Hurdle will have the luxury of two highly capable lead off hitters.

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