Manager Terry Collins has a couple of different options to go over for the leadoff spot in the lineup until Andres Torres recovers from his strained calf. After an unimpressive game on Saturday, Tejada showed that he can pace the lineup up top with a four-hit day against the Braves and solid game last night against Washington. However, Collins is hesitant to continue putting Tejada in the number one spot because he doesn’t want to exploit his 22-year-old shortstop to the pressure of being a table settler, especially since he’s already trying to “replace” Jose Reyes at short.
However, Kirk Nieuwenhuis could be an interesting option for the Mets while Torres is on the DL. Last season at Triple-A Buffalo, Nieuwenhuis had a .403 on-base percentage in 53 games, and his approach at the plate was a good one, to the tune of drawing a walk nearly every seven plate appearances. Even though he’s not the quickest on the base paths, he showed that he can run when he legged out a ground ball for his first Major League hit. Also, that game-tying home run last night doesn’t hurt, either. If the new centerfielder continues to show that he can handle NL pitching lower in the order, he may give him a shot. However, if Tejada keeps getting on base and making things happen, it will be tough to switch around the lineup.
It seems as though everyone wants someone that is fast to be the leadoff hitter. I understand that having someone who can move at the top of the order will help out a lot when they get on base, but being fast isn’t all that important because they have to get on base first. Having Jose pacing the rest of our lineup was awesome, but I didn’t like him in that spot because he was fast; I liked him up there because he got on base consistently.
In addition to having a knack for getting on base, I want our lead off hitter to be a great base runner. One does not have to be fast and steal a lot of bases to be considered a great base runner. Jeff Bagwell was considered a fantastic base runner, and he wasn’t known as a prolific base stealer. It’s more about knowing the situation of the game and being aware of which fielders are playing where. Having all the speed in the world is wonderful, especially because speed never slumps, but if you can’t get on base, it will be awfully hard to use that speed.
So, until Torres returns from his injury, it doesn’t really matter to me who leads off, as long as they’re getting on base consistently and making things happen. That will continue to put pressure on opposing pitching staffs, and will allow the meat of the order to come to bat in run-scoring situations. Who would you rather see leadoff until Torres returns: Tejada, Nieuwenhuis, or someone else?