A leadoff hitter must be many things. Ideally, seeing as this person will take the most at bats on the team, he or she should be a good hitter in general. This means the leadoff hitter should have good eyesight, above average hand-eye coordination, and his or her hands should be quick. A leadoff hitter above all needs to get on base, so he or she should also be knowledgeable of the strike zone, the fearlessness to hit behind in the count, and be willing to take one for the team every once-in-a-while. There is also a mental aspect. The leadoff hitter should be prepared to be the first combatant, to lead the charge, to start to the game. A leadoff hitters batting line should look like this, per Baseball Reference:
That is Matt Carpenter.
Conventional wisdom states that a leadoff hitter needs to be scrappy and fast and steal a lot of bases. But times are a-changing, says Carpenter himself per Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
"More teams are leaning to putting a guy who gets on base in the leadoff spot," said Carpenter. "The days putting your fastest guy in the leadoff spot are over. The key is, ‘Can you get on base?' That's something that's being valued more."
Carpenter admits he's "not even close" to being the fastest player on the club, rating Jeremy Hazelbaker first and Aledmys Diaz, another rookie, second.
But he said, "It's about runs. It's about on-base percentage. It's about having good at-bats.
"Not because I'm a leadoff hitter but of who I am, I lead the league in pitches per plate appearance. That would happen no matter what, but it suits the leadoff spot well."
Matt Carpenter understands what a leadoff hitter needs to do and since taking over the spot in 2013, he has been one of the best leadoff men in baseball.
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