Upton was struggling terribly, so giving him the most at-bats on the team was either going to derail the team’s offense, or give him enough at-bats to get out of his slump.
I hope you bet on the latter, because that’s how it went down. And, ever since Joe Maddon started experimenting with that spot in the order, the production the Angels have gotten from that spot has been tremendous.
The leadoff slot in the LA Angels’ lineup refuses to go cold.
Since May 23rd, when Upton made the switch to the leadoff spot in the batting order for the LA Angels, he’s been hitting .326/.420/.600 with six home runs and 15 RBI in 25 games.
Right, 15 RBI in just 25 games and a .600 slugging percentage (1.020 OPS) from a leadoff hitter. That isn’t bad, is it?
As for Upton’s stats before he batted leadoff? He batted a line of .188/.271/.391 with 17 RBI in 38 games. That’s quite the difference.
Upton had eight home runs in those 38 games, which was nice, but that’s all he could do. He couldn’t get on base. Batting in the leadoff spot has given him new purpose, and has revived his career, which had been missing ever since his struggles began in 2019.
When Upton went down with an injury, Maddon had something up his sleeve. He decided to go with Luis Rengifo, who had also been having an awful year before getting his chance at the leadoff spot.
Well, Rengifo felt like the only thing that went right offensively in that first game without Upton. Hitting a home run vs. a dominant Kevin Gausman ended up being the only run the Angels would score in the first nine innings of that game. Rengifo scored two of the Angels’ three runs in that contest.
Then, the Tampa Bay Rays series began, and Maddon had yet another trick up his sleeve, and started Shohei Ohtani at the leadoff spot. In typical Ohtani fashion, he hit a leadoff home run to start the game.
Who’s even surprised at this point? Shohei does this stuff on the regular, and this time he proved Maddon right again on his new leadoff hitter move. Not only did Ohtani hit that leadoff tank, but he also bunted for a base hit later in the contest.
In the next game (Saturday), Ohtani shined in the leadoff spot once again, going one for three with a double and a walk.
It goes to show that the leadoff spot has been the sweet spot for the Angels lineup for over a month now. Whoever hits leadoff for the Angels ends up raking, and it’s yet another savvy move from our veteran Manager to try to make something out of a tough season.