Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon made a big decision when he saw that his top leadoff hitter — David Fletcher — was facing massive struggles at the plate. In the team’s 36 games with him batting in the opening spot, Fletcher was hitting a measly .256/.278/.282 for an OPS of .560. He had just four extra base hits and 20 strikeouts to go along with five walks in that span.
Maddon’s decision at that point was to move Fletcher all the way down to No. 9 in the hopes that he would regain his confidence batting later in games. The results have been positive thus far, as Fletcher is now slashing .260/.327/.340 for an OPS of .667. His strikeout to walk ratio has also dropped significantly from four-to-one and is now one-to-one.
While he’s still not putting up the numbers that we’re used to seeing from him, Maddon is seeing some signs of positive regression in his at-bats, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“From my perspective, the ball is on a better trajectory and there are not as many fly-ball outs,” Maddon said. “Even during some of his early work right now, the ball was definitely more on a line and that’s where it needs to stay. I also like it when he’s on the pull side. But more than anything, I like it when he’s aggressive and early in the count.”
When asked if the improvements mean a shift back to the leadoff spot, Maddon refocused on the positive aspects of him batting ninth.
“Right now, I’m just liking it, for lack of a better answer,” Maddon said. “I think it plays pretty good right now. Like [Kean] Wong and Fletch going back-to-back to end the lineup and then getting back to Upton. It’s almost like two leadoff hitters in front of J-Up, so I kind of like it.”
Putting Fletcher in the 9-hole was a fascinating experiment that not many saw coming. However, it was clear a chance needed to be made due to his ongoing struggles. Now, Fletcher is slowly working back to being the player that Angels fans have grown to love during his first few seasons.
Hopefully, Fletcher can get enough consistency to earn back his leadoff spot. After signing a five-year deal with the Angels in the offseason, it’s clear that the two sides are committed to working with one another on any potential obstacles.
Anthony Rendon starting to turn things around
Anthony Rendon — like Fletcher — has also struggled at the plate this season. However, there’s increasing hope that Rendon is starting to turn things around. After going 3-for-5 in a win over the San Francisco Giants, the Angels star third baseman has continued to put the ball in play with hard contact, even if it’s not always resulting in hits.
This type of work at the plate shows that his timing and his contact are there, and now it’s simply time to make minor tweaks to turn flyouts into hits.