George Springer cementing his name into the history books one leadoff homer at a time

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Mets, George Springer
Toronto Blue Jays v New York Mets, George Springer / Mike Stobe/GettyImages

When it comes to prototypical leadoff hitters in baseball, one may envision a player that has the ability to get on base easily and have the speed to be able to steal a base or two to get into scoring position to generate runs. As a result, that player typically would have a high on-base percentage, a good batting average or a high number of walks, plus a high number of stolen bases. Former stars that quickly come to mind include the likes of Rickey Henderson, Brady Anderson, Jimmy Rollins, and Otis Nixon.

So when we take a look at George Springer of the Toronto Blue Jays, he tends to profile more as a power-hitting, run producer that would fit more in the heart of a lineup, cranking home runs and cashing in multiple base runners at a time. He doesn’t hit for that high of an average, nor does he draw an exceptional number of walks, and he has not stolen more than 16 bases in a season in his career. That was indeed true during his first couple of years in the big leagues with the Houston Astros, as he batted further down in the lineup as they believed he was most effective in those spots. But halfway through his third season in 2016 with the Astros, they had a hunch and made the move to put Springer permanently into the leadoff spot in their lineup to see what happens, and lo and behold, the rest was history.

Since then, Springer has held his number one spot in the lineup up until now and has thrived tremendously in that role. He doesn’t necessary care about not being in the heart of the lineup driving in runs and being in the spotlight all the time. He is a player that just wants to help lead his team as much as he can and make an impact the moment the game begins each time.

On Friday night, Springer smashed a 1-0 pitch from future to be Hall of Famer Justin Verlander of the New York Mets over the center field wall for his 54th career leadoff home run to a game. That tied him with Alfonso Soriano for the second most leadoff homers in a game, with Rickey Henderson in sole possession of first place at quite a distance with 81. The Jays would go on to shutout the Mets 3-0, making it a night for double celebration.

As mentioned above, Springer wasn’t a full-time leadoff hitter until part way through 2016. So being able to move up that high in the record books in just seven years is quite the accomplishment.

Turning 34 this September, if Springer could continue on such a pace, which works out to about 7.6 such home runs per year on average, he is on track to pass Henderson for the most leadoff homers of all time if he could play till at least age 38. The key part though is for Springer to remain healthy, as he has had his fair share of injuries over the years. But a wise move would be to deploy him in the DH spot as he ages to preserve his body and power, and in doing so, there will be a greater chance he will achieve that honour sooner than later.

In the meantime, knowing Springer and his baseball acumen, his focus definitely isn’t on the leadoff home run record. Instead, his heart is definitely “all-in” mainly to help his current Blue Jays team to a successful year and hopefully a deep postseason run as well.