There are plenty of things that have gone wrong this year for Arizona, primarily not winning enough games. But beyond that, we’ve seen injuries, unexpected under-performances and much, much more. Something that’s bothered me has been the inconsistency of the leadoff spot. What kind of production have the Diamondbacks gotten out of the top of the order?

Depending on when you read this, the team has played 127 games. In 120 of those games, three players have led off with some regularly: Adam Eaton, AJ Pollock and Gerardo Parra. I’d like to take a look at these three and see just how productive they’ve been at the top of the order.

(Please note that lineup order isn’t all that important. If there’s any one principle we should expect from a leadoff hitter, it’s that he should get on base in front of our best hitters. This player does not have to be a base-stealing maniac, rather he needs to give our team a chance to score runs by being on base when Goldy, Chavez, Hill and others come to the dish. Shin-Soo Choo has been incredibly effective in the leadoff role although he’s anything but a base-stealing maniac. In fact, he’s an average runner at best.)

Adam Eaton: 17 games, 21-71 (.295), 15:9 K:BB, .390 OBP

Eaton has led off for the Diamondbacks in 17 games this year. That’s about 110 games less than the team had been hoping for, mostly due to injury and somewhat due to ineffectiveness. Unsurprisingly, there was a reasonable amount of rust to his game when he returned from his extended DL stint. In the role, though, he’s been pretty good. His on-base percentage is a stellar .390 and he’s taking his walks without getting killed by strikeouts.

AJ Pollock: 34 games, 38-142 (.267), 26:11 K:BB, .322 OBP

AJ Pollock has led off twice as many times as Eaton on the year, but the results aren’t inspiring. You’d like to see more walks and more hits, but AJ Pollock is a fourth outfielder who shouldn’t be leading off for a team with division-winning aspirations. When he was hitting doubles early in the season, people were clamoring for more playing time for the guy. Well, I think we’ve seen his true colors and unfortunately the scouts were right, he’s just short of being a major league regular for a first division team.

Gerardo Parra: 69 games, 82-293 (.279), 56:19 K:BB, .327 OBP

My man-crush on “G” has been well-documented, but his prolonged slump has really dragged down his numbers. We knew he wouldn’t sustain his dominance from early in the season, but we also were hoping that he’d hold up a little better than he has. As the primary leadoff guy this season, the on-base percentage is too low and he’s not taking walks. In fact, he’s shown some pretty poor plate discipline at times, leading to a lack of hits and subsequent strikeouts. He’s not a leadoff guy long-term.

Far and away, Adam Eaton has been the best hitter to man the leadoff role. He’s getting on base there and creating run-scoring opportunities for the heart of the lineup. His speed on the bases is a total plus and allows him to score from first on doubles or from second on singles. There’s just one problem: it’s only 17 games and that’s a pretty small sample to work with. Can we trust his statistical trends from only 17 games at the top of the order? Maybe not, but it appears that he’s the best option we currently have on the roster.

In 2014, Eaton should and will get the nod to lead off. He’ll have to replicate his high OBP and maintain a decent average if the Diamondbacks want to push past the Dodgers for the division. Parra and Pollock have done the best they can, but they just don’t get on base often enough to really lead the offense and provide scoring opportunities for Goldy & The Gang. 150+ games of Eaton leading off would have resulted in more runs for this offense without a doubt. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to see that in action for the rest of 2013 and all of next season.

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