Tommy Danko, Tornadoes Stats Intern
In backyard baseball games, kids always fight among each other to determine who will be the leadoff hitter, and maybe, these arguments play a more significant role in the end result of the game than it appears. Every team aims to place their best hitters toward the front of their lineup to maximize their chance of scoring runs. The goal of every great leadoff hitter is to get on base – by any means necessary. A team’s chance of scoring drastically increases when they have not produced an out. For example, when the Tornadoes get their leadoff hitter on base they have had a 44.90% chance of scoring him (about 4 out of 9 batters); however, when they get a non-leadoff hitter on base they have had a 37.02% chance of scoring that player (about 3 out of 9 batters).
Although the Canadian-American League does not have an all-star game built into their schedule to divide the season in half, the Tornadoes have just passed their halfway point, game 50. Unfortunately, their record thus far stands at 17 – 37 (.315). To examine whether the effectiveness of their leadoff hitters have contributed to the Tornadoes sub-.333 record, one can turn to the team’s first 54 game numbers. Every inning of the first 54 games has been taken into account. On average, the Tornadoes’ leadoff hitters combined have a .328 on-base percentage (OBP) of reaching a base (i.e. via a single, double, triple, homerun, walk, or error), where their opponents on average have a .337 OBP.
If a leadoff hitter gets on base, the Tornadoes leadoff hitters have a 44.90% chance of scoring once he reaches a base, where the opposing team’s leadoff hitters have a corresponding 51.14% chance of scoring. Combining these two percentages together, one can estimate the likelihood of the leadoff hitters getting on base and then scoring before he even takes a swing at the plate. The Tornadoes have a 14.89% chance of getting their leadoff hitter on base and scoring (i.e. approximately 3 out of every 20 leadoff hitters get on base and score), whereas their opponents have had a 20.57% chance (i.e. approximately 1 out of every 5 leadoff hitters get on base and score). This deficit in scoring the leadoff man has played a huge impact because it has occurred over the course of 54 games, and if trends continue their deficit in scoring the leadoff man will continue to influence the final result of the next 46 games.
When the Tornadoes are able score more of their leadoff hitters than their opponent, they have a record of 14-3. When their opponents score more leadoff hitters than the Tornadoes score, the Tornadoes’ record is 2-27. Comparing these two situational records to their actual 17-37 record, it shows how important getting the leadoff man on-base and in turn bringing him home to score is to winning the ballgame.
The next time you get back to your seats from the concession stands for the beginning of an inning, give the team’s leadoff guy a little extra motivation by cheering as loud as you can and who knows, it might make the different between a win or a loss on the final scoreboard.