George Springer is the best homer-bashing leadoff hitter in the game
Here's a baseball axiom for you: You can't win without taking the lead. And the most efficient way to take the lead is with a leadoff dinger. One batter, one swing, one run. It's beautiful in its simplicity.
There is one hitter that is better than everyone else at this: The Astros' George Springer. Primarily slotted in at the top of the lineup since May 24, 2015 (with some dalliances around the order for a few weeks here and there), Springer has been death to pitchers hoping to start the game pleasantly. With 21 leadoff home runs in 509 career games, he has the highest rate among all players on the active and all-time leaderboard.
Here's another way to think about, with players ranked in percentage of games they hit a leadoff homer:
Naturally, Rickey Henderson, who is the leadoff hitter you picture when you think of leadoff hitters, holds the all-time leadoff homer title with 81 long balls. However, not only was his career rate behind Springer's, but it took him 977 games to hit his 21st leadoff homer (Despite the difference in games, Henderson was a year younger than the Astros center fielder).
If Springer wants to pass Henderson on the all-time list (which, at this rate, would take about 10 years), he'll -- obviously -- have to stay in the leadoff spot. Fortunately for him, baseball teams are no longer quite so resistant to keeping power hitters atop the lineup. The last two years saw leadoff homers absolutely skyrocket, with 156 and 159 hit, respectively. The record before then was 119 set in 2006.
Like many facets of the game, we're in a new era of leadoff power. But Springer is not just the face of it, he's also pacing the field.
Here's a few more fun facts for you:
- Barry Bonds hit 20 leadoff dingers in his career.
- Mookie Betts is slowly climbing the charts. He has 14 leadoff dingers now, with an average rate just topping Henderson's.
- Jeff Suppan and Pedro Martinez are tied for the all-time lead in surrendering leadoff dingers with 19 apiece.
- A leadoff homer is pretty important to a team's chance of winning. Using Tom Tango's win expectancy charts, the away team hitting a leadoff homer has a.599 winning percentage, while the home team would get a .647 winning percentage (assuming the game was still tied at 0.)