Who Should Bat Leadoff for the Pittsburgh Pirates?

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Fixing the Pittsburgh Pirates leadoff issue

A week ago today the Pittsburgh Pirates placed second baseman Josh Harrison on the disabled list with a broken bone in his hand. With this move not only did the Pirates lose their starting second baseman, but they also lost their leadoff hitter.

Even before Harrison’s injury, the Pirates had an issue with the leadoff position. Harrison owned a career-best 7.8 percent walk rate before his injury, but his on-base percentage was just .328. Lifetime, he owns a 4.0 percent walk rate and a .321 on-base percentage. For these reasons, Harrison is not a good option to bat leadoff.

Since Harrison has gotten hurt, the leadoff position has become an absolute mess for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the seven games since Harrison was placed on the disabled list, Pirate leadoff hitters are 5-for-22 with a home run and a walk. This is a big reason why the Pirates are averaging just 2.4 runs per game since Harrison has been placed on the disabled list.

In these games, the leadoff spot has rotated between Sean Rodriguez and Adam Frazier. However, it should be neither of these hitters. Instead, catcher Francisco Cervelli should be leading off.

Cervelli batting leadoff is something I have been in favor of dating back to last season. During his Major League career, Cervelli owns a 9.9 percent walk rate and a .359 on-base percentage. This season, those numbers sit at 9.7 percent and .361. For comparison’s sake, Frazier owns a 7.5 percent walk rate and .340 on-base percentage in his career while Rodriguez’s numbers are 7.1 percent and .301. So, it is obvious that Cervelli is a better leadoff option than both of these hitters.

Due to the ability to get on base being Cervelli’s best offensive skill, he should bat leadoff for the Pirates. Even when Harrison is healthy, Cervelli should be the leadoff hitter.

Another reason that Cervelli should bat leadoff is due to his lack of power. Cervelli owns just a .102 ISO and a .377 slugging percentage, both of which are below league average, in his career. Cervelli is a hitter that is best suited to hit toward the top of the lineup using his on-base skills to set the table for the rest of the lineup, not batting fifth or sixth and being asked to drive in runs.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates’ offense is currently struggling. A big reason why is lack of production from the leadoff spot. In an effort to fix this, the Pirates should move catcher Francisco Cervelli to the leadoff spot. Even when Josh Harrison returns, Cervelli should remain the leadoff hitter.