The Brewers have used two different leadoff batters over their five games this year. Should one of them be getting priority for the position over the other?
Ask a Brewers fan what the most important spot in the lineup is and you could get a variety of answers. It could be the No. 2 spot, the spot that former MVP Christian Yelich normally occupies. It might be No. 3 or No. 4, where Keston Hiura and Ryan Braun generally reside to drive in runs.
To many, it’s the leadoff spot, and for good reason. The leadoff hitters sets the table for your whole offense. Their job is simple: to get on base, take an extra base where necessary, and let the team’s best hitters who immediately follow bring them home.
For the last two years, that spot has largely been occupied by center fielder Lorenzo Cain. He excelled at it in 2018 in his first year back in Milwaukee, then took a step back in 2019 in a season in which he is probably looking to put behind him.
Cain was mostly removed from the leadoff position down the stretch last year in favor of now-former Brewer Trent Grisham, including in the Wild Card game against the Nationals. But with Grisham now with the Padres and Cain fully healthy, fans were probably expecting Cain to regain his spot atop the order.
That’s not how the first few games played out, however. Eric Sogard, who was brought back to Milwaukee over the offseason, saw his name at the top of the lineup card in all three games against the Cubs. In the following games against the Pirates, Cain replaced him in the lead position.
Cain has started off the season pretty well to this point, but Sogard hasn’t looked too shabby himself. So who is the right man for the job?
The case for Cain as Brewers leadoff hitter?
Many fans have been clamoring for Cain to be permanently reinstalled as Milwaukee’s leadoff hitter and it’s easy to see why. He is second among Brewers regulars with a .333 batting average and tied for second with a .429 on base percentage. His six runs scored are also the most on the team so far, even not hitting leadoff in the first three games.
We also know what Cain is capable off as leadoff hitter. In his 2018 All-Star season, Cain had a .376 OBP specifically when he was batting first in the lineup. That’s exactly what you want out of your table setter.
The case for Sogard as Brewers leadoff hitter?
But wait a second, if Cain is only second on the team in on base percentage, then who is the one player getting on base more often than him? Why that would be Sogard, who currently leads the team in 2020 so far with a .444 OBP.
The .231 batting average may be what gives Brewers fans pause, but Sogard leads the team with five walks and is the only player besides Manny Pina, who has 11 less plate appearances, to not strikeout yet this season. Sogard has either put the ball in play or walked, nothing in between, and those are two pretty good outcomes for a leadoff hitter, right?
So, who should be the leadoff hitter?
Just like so many other positional questions for the Brewers this season, this question is probably one without an easy answer. Manager Craig Counsell is using platoons and tandems all over the roster and this is probably just another case of that.
It’s probably no coincidence that the lefty Sogard batted leadoff against the Cubs’ three right-handed starters while Cain took over when the Pirates deployed two left starters after that. So it may be as simple as Counsell going with a lefty-righty leadoff platoon. Or, he may just roll with the hot hand as the season goes on.
Either way, both players have shown themselves to be capable of manning the top spot in the order. The Brewers will need that to continue being the case if they want to pile up some wins here in the early part of the season.