Those of us in Baltimore have watched the Orioles scuffle this season while their $10 million leadoff hitter looks on from the dugout with a herniated disk. Roberts’ absence isn’t the sole cause of the O’s struggles, but it sure hasn’t helped matters. Ty Wigginton has filled in admirably at 2nd base, putting up great offensive numbers and limiting his defenses lapses. But the club is still searching for a competent leadoff hitter. Dave Trembley has settled on Adam Jones in the leadoff spot for now, but he can’t be happy with Jones’ production. Adam and his .312 career On Base % are miscast in the top spot of the lineup. Coming into 2010 Jones appeared to be a budding power hitter but his OBP and Slugging % are both down this year and he’s clearly frustrated.
The Orioles aren’t the only team missing a premier leadoff hitter. The recently swept Red Sox are playing, and struggling, without Jacoby Ellsbury. The perennial AL East power is off to a 12-14 start and is just 2-4 against the Orioles this season. The Boston offense has struggled to consistently produce runs with Ellsbury’s career .350 OBP and base stealing abilities on the bench nursing a rib injury. Terry Francona is using journeyman shortstop Marco Scutaro to lead off and converted infielder Bill Hall in left. I wouldn’t expect the Red Sox to make a turnaround until Ellsbury returns, which may not be anytime soon.
Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies extraordinary leadoff man is out with a calf injury and may not return before the end of the month. The Phillies are off to a 14-12 start, but are just 4-6 in their last 10 games. Philadelphia had an excellent in-house leadoff candidate in Shane Victorino and they’re getting by with journeyman Juan Castro at short.