In Saturday’s loss to the Astros, Rafael Furcal did something that he’s been doing a lot of this year: leading off an inning by reaching base. So far, he’s the quintessential leadoff man, getting on base to start games at a .407 clip and leading off innings at an astounding .471 rate. Furcal’s table-setting reliability is a huge factor in the team’s offensive smorgasbord this season.
Bill James wrote that “The largest variable determining how many runs a team will score is how many times they get their leadoff man on base.” One of the reasons that the Cardinals are second in the league in scoring is because Furcal is fulfilling James’s tenet. Even Mike Matheny‘s insistence on playing for the low-scoring inning with sacrifice bunts hasn’t been able to completely undermine Furcal’s work.
But Furcal isn’t the only Cardinal batter leading off innings the right way. As a team, the Cardinals have a .360 OBP leading off an inning. That’s second in the league, which correlates with their scoring — right behind the Braves, who, you guessed it, lead the league in leadoff OBP:
|Leadoff OBP||Leadoff OBP rank||R/G||R/G rank|
Of course, leadoff OBP is simply a byproduct of overall OBP, in which the Cardinals lead all of baseball. The story here is simply that Rafael Furcal is not only healthy but being highly productive out of the leadoff spot, pacing the team’s exceptional leadoff OBP.