What should the Arizona Diamondbacks do with Kelly Johnson?
If you took a quick glance at Kelly Johnson’s stats, the 16 home runs he has hit this season jumps off the page and you would think he is having a great season.
When you dive deeper and actually look across the board you realize Johnson is struggling like he did in 2009 with the Braves and it might even end up being worse.
Johnson is hitting .217, has a .299 OBP, and K rate is a career-high 28 percent, with previous career high being 22 percent in 2010.
One of the biggest reasons for Johnson’s down year is his unusual struggles against left-handed pitching. During his career, Johnson hit .291 with a .821 OPS against lefties. In 2011 Johnson’s average is .207 with a .594 OPS.
My solution to what ails Johnson?
Let him hit in the leadoff spot.
“I have a lot of at bats in the leadoff spot in my career,” said Johnson. “I have a little bit of a comfort level there. I don’t look at myself as a prototypical leadoff guy, but in terms of personal comfort and success I seem to be slightly better there than the two hole.”
The numbers back up what Johnson said. In his career he has been significantly better hitting leadoff than second and the disparity is even greater this season.
Since June 27, Johnson has hit leadoff in 9 out 15 games. In those games Johnson is hitting .333 (11-33), with a .435 OBP, 4 Home Runs, and 11 RBIs.
Hitting in the number two slot this season, Johnson has a .181 average in 226 at bats, .272 OBP, eight home runs (he has eight home runs hitting first in only 81 at bats), and 22 RBIs.
Is this a role we could see Johnson fill on a regular basis?
“I did joke with him not too long ago about not putting me back in the two hole” said Johnson when asked if he talked to manager Kirk Gibson about being put permanently in the leadoff position. “There’s been games against left-handers where I’m still there and, since then, I’ve lead off against most of the right handers.”
There is no player on the Diamondbacks that fits the “prototypical” leadoff hitter.
It doesn’t make sense to force Johnson to hit second if he can’t be productive.
The Diamondbacks haven’t had a true leadoff hitter since Tony Womack or Craig Counsell.
Why not give Kelly Johnson a shot?