Bonifacio not the leadoff answer for Marlins

April, 6, 2009
Good news! The Marlins have settled on their leadoff man! And he's fast!

Bad news! The Marlins' leadoff man has a .300 career on-base percentage. …

    Manager Fredi Gonzalez said on Friday that he plans to use Emilio Bonifacio as the leadoff hitter for the early part of the season. The team had been weighing whether to go with Bonifacio or Cameron Maybin in the first spot.

    There was some consideration of splitting the two depending on if they were facing a left-handed or right-handed starter.

    Bonifacio has a career .167 average against left-handers, compared to .264 against right-handers.

    "In the past, there has been a big difference -- a big split there," Gonzalez said.

    Florida opens on Monday against the Nationals, who are pitching left-hander John Lannan.


    Gonzalez said he will show patience with Bonifacio at the plate.

    "We'll give [him] an opportunity. What's the opportunity? I can't pick a number for you," Gonzalez said. "I don't know if it's 30 at-bats, 40 at-bats, 25 at-bats. But he will get an opportunity. You can see it, if he's overmatched, then maybe we will make an adjustment. We've got some pieces."

Two points here, both of them so obvious that perhaps you don't need me to make them. …

One, 30 or 40 or 25 at-bats isn't really any opportunity at all. Even a good hitter might easily go 8-for-40 (.200) and (by Gonzalez' logic) lose his job.

Two, Bonifacio's career averages in the majors against lefties and righties aren't all that interesting, because he's not spent a great deal of time in the majors. What are interesting are minor-league splits: .265/.325/.333 against lefties, .310/.364/.402 against righties.

What do those numbers tell us? They tell me that if Bonifacio plays fantastic defense at third base, he might be good enough to be in the lineup against right-handed pitching. Not good enough to lead off, mind you. But good enough to play. They also tell me that he shouldn't play against lefties, ever.



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