Durham Is What A Leadoff Hitter Should Be

The Giants picked up Ray Durham, a second baseman who is expected to score at least 100 runs this season. He hit a home run in his first at-bat as a Giant

The Giants have lacked a true leadoff hitter ever since they had Darryl Hamilton in 1997 and most of 1998. Since then, Marvin Benard has been their leadoff hitter, and he has not played this role too well.

Leadoff hitters are generally expected to have an OBP of at least .350, to steal upwards at least 30 bases in a season, and to score 100 runs or more a season. Based on these standards, Benard was respectable as a leadoff hitter. However, his OBP was always below .350 except for his best year, 1999, when he had a .359 OBP, and in 1998, when he had a .396 OBP in only 286 at-bats.

In 2000, he declined to a .342 OBP, and in 2001 he slipped further to .320. His poor ability to get on base in 2001 was masked by an increase in his power numbers, but when one is a leadoff hitter, driving in others is less important than getting on base.

He also has never stolen more than 27 bases in a season, much lower than what is expected of a leadoff hitter. He gets caught too often as well. Even in his best season, when he stole 27 bases, he was caught 14 times, which is not very respectable at all.

This is why Ray Durham is a godsend. He is a true leadoff hitter, and improved from 2001 to 2002. His OBP went up from .337 to .374. He also is just as powerful as Benard was in his peak. He has stolen at least 30 bases in four seasons, and he has scored at least 100 runs a year since 1997. His power numbers are less a fluke than Benards, as he has hit at least 10 home runs consistently since 1996.

Ray Durham is the Giants true leadoff hitter. He is invaluable to their team, because they finally have the spark plug to start the game going, something they had been missing, a void in the lineup that had been masked by the power of Bonds and Kent.

With Durham and the other new players, the Giants have more speed and their talent is not as concentrated, so when one player is injured they don't have to worry nearly as much.

I predict Durham will hit .292, have an .OBP of .380, and steal 35 bases. He will score 126 runs because he is batting ahead of Barry Bonds.

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