LA Angels Manager Joe Maddon has announced that two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani will be batting leadoff to begin the season in 2022. This is a bit of a surprising move, as he was the two hole hitter for the Halos last year, and not only succeeded but was the best offensive weapon in the game there.
One would think that Maddon wouldn't fix it considering that it definitely isn't broken--Ohtani just had the best season of all-time last year. Ohtani did play very well in his 23 games as the leadoff man last year, but not quite as good as what he was in the second spot in the order.
Ohtani did have a better batting average in the first spot in the lineup than the second (.272 to .252). He also had a better on-base percentage in the first spot in the lineup than the second (.388 to .363). The issue is that the power wasn't there last year from the leadoff spot in the same way it was in the two-hole (.543 to .613 SLG).
Joe Maddon must be willing to sacrifice Shohei Ohtani's power for his ability to get on-base more often for the Angels.
To me, Joe Maddon is making this move with Shohei Ohtani so that he can use Ohtani's speed on the bases for the LA Angels. Obviously, a manager wants somebody who can get on at leadoff, and Ohtani is better at getting on base and getting his hits as a leadoff hitter.
Therefore, he'll bat him leadoff and then use his speed to be a threat to take second base. He had five of his 26 stolen bases from the leadoff spot last year despite only playing 23 games there (0.22 steals per game) compared to 21 in 117 games in the two-hole (0.18 steals per game).
I still wouldn't do it, as Ohtani is a better overall hitter in the two spot. His OPS in the two-hole is .976 OPS compared to a .931 OPS in the leadoff spot. He also hit just 0.26 home runs per game from the leadoff spot, which is great, but not as great as his 0.33 home runs per game from the second hole.
He also had just two doubles and only one of his Major League-leading eight triples in 2021 from the first hole in the lineup. Scoring just 12 runs in 23 games at leadoff, he was a scoring machine in the second hole, crossing the plate 87 (!) times in his 117 games in the two-hole.
This is a move that I would not have made, but it's clear as to why Maddon's doing it. He wants that speed to get on base as much as it can. He's sacrificing the power of Ohtani, but hopefully the move will pay off and we'll see 30+ stolen bases with a .390 on-base percentage.