Where have you gone, "Little Louie" Aparicio?
For the better part of baseball history, the leadoff spot in a batting order was reserved for guys like the White Sox shortstop, spray hitters who were light on their feet, worked the count, put the ball in play (preferably on the ground), could steal a bag and generally served as a pain to opposing pitchers.
Well, those days have gone the way of Slinkies, bell-bottoms and the Macarena.
If you haven’t noticed, it’s all about launch angles and the almighty home run these days. Why bother to get him on, get him over and get him in when some behemoth can do all of that on one swing of the bat? Hello, Kyle Schwarber. One-time staples such as hit-and-runs and stolen bases only get in the way.
What’s more, strategists made a remarkable discovery in recent years. The higher up in the order, the more at-bats a player is likely to get over the course of a game and season. So they began to stack the top of their lineups with the most productive hitters available regardless of ability to handle the bat or run the bases.
Yet purists should be comforted to know that one thing remains the same until further notice. The primary goal is still not to make an out. It’s the one trait that the best leadoff hitters in major league history have in common no matter the philosophical differences elsewhere.