Who Will Lead Off for the 2016 Nationals?

Nori Aoki

Assuming the Nationals accept they’ll have to tinker with the outfield, the former Brewers, Royals, and Giants outfielder is an excellent fit for Washington. Aoki has massive strengths in a number of critical offensive areas.

[table “” not found /]

The name of the game is consistency, and what this table shows is that Aoki consistently walks at league-average rates, while posting minuscule strikeout numbers. In his injury-shortened 2015, he struck out at a 6.4 percent clip, while the rest of the NL whiffed at nearly 20 percent.

He struck out nearly three times less often than an average NL hitter.

For his career, he’s averaging a 1-to-1 ratio between strikeouts and walks. The worst mark of his career is 0.78, and that is still a far better ratio than any year Gordon has had, even in his career-best 2015.

These low strikeout rates could be especially appealing to the Nats because the rival Mets have a handful of strikeout-happy starting pitchers. Having a leadoff hitter who can help neutralize that advantage specifically would be highly useful.

As a base stealer, he has been efficient enough but hardly a dominating force. He has totaled 81 swipes in 114 tries, a good-enough but not breathtaking 71 percent rate.

Teams are always wary of age and injury, and Aoki is 33 and coming off two seasons where he has seen his playing time decrease. He played 132 games in 2014, and much less in 2015, after enduring both a broken leg and a concussion.

As I was speculating about his decline, I checked the numbers and saw – welp – that Aoki was playing some of the best offensive baseball of his career at the time he got hurt.

He slashed .317/.383/.385 in the first half, aided by a career-best .333 BABIP. His injury-plagued second half has a fascinating sidebar: his peripheral walk and strikeout rates remained steady – he remained brutally difficult to ring up – but he posted an impossibly microscopic BABIP of .195.

Assuming he could be properly vetted medically, Aoki has tons to offer. But would Washington really want to bring in another older player with injury risk to anchor this lineup, especially after the club’s 2015 health-pocalypse?

Leave a Reply