With 5 games to go in the 2010 season, the Cubs offense ranks 10th in runs scored with 674 in 157 games (4.3 per game). This is a far cry from the 2008 season when the Cubs were second in the majors in runs scored. So why the big drop off?
Part of the reason can be attributed to the lack of a quality leadoff man. The various Cubs leadoff men have hit a combined .253/.316/.367 on the year. Ryan Theriot was the Cubs top leadoff man in 2010, almost by default, with a .275/.310/.308 line in 56 games atop the Cubs order. However, with Theriot out of the picture for 2010, who will be the leadoff man in 2011?
Let's take a look at the candidates:
Kosuke Fukudome - Fukudome was second to Theriot in games started at leadoff with 46, however, his .197/.314/.303 line forced the Cubs to look at other options. His one redeeming quality is his ability to take a walk. But, with Tyler Colvin starting in right, Fukudome will more likely be relegated to the bench in 2011.
Tyler Colvin - Colvin has started 24 games as the Cubs leadoff hitter, with limited success. His line in the leadoff spot is .250/.310/.538. However, his power is better suited for further down in the lineup. In fact he's had his best success in the 5th or 6th spots.
Blake DeWitt - since joining the Cubs on July 31st, DeWitt has started 12 games as the leadoff hitter with a .216/.250/.392 line. He has spent most of his career (192 out of 226 games) hitting at the bottom of the order in the 6-8 spots. Its unlikely that he'll wind up in the leadoff spot.
Darwin Barney - in his 16 games in the bigs, Barney has started 4 of them leading off. He is just 2 for 15 in the spot, but it appears the Cubs are willing to try him there, if need be.
Alfonso Soriano - Soriano has not started a game in the leadoff spot this year, but is a career .288/.338/.538 hitter in the leadoff spot. With his knee problems, his days of 30-40 SB's are over, but he could be an option for the Cubs. However, I think the Cubs will need him more in the middle of the order next year.
Marlon Byrd - Byrd has been the leadoff hitter for 5 games this season with unrivaled success (.500/.522/.727) albeit in limited at bats. For his career, Byrd is a .289/.352/.418 hitter in the leadoff spot. He is a strong candidate for the leadoff spot.
Starlin Castro - The Cubs hitting leader with a .301 average, Castro has been used only one time in the leadoff spot this year and went 0 for 4. He has spent the majority of his time in the bigs hitting second in the order. Its possible the Cubs have not tried him at leadoff more this year as they did not want to put any more pressure on their rising star. However, with a successful season under his belt, its possible they could give him a shot leading off in 2011.
The Cubs don't have the prototypical leadoff hitter on the team and its unlikely they'll go out and acquire one before next season. Thus, based on the choices currently on the roster, I think the Cubs would be best off with either Byrd or Castro leading off. With Byrd's prior experience leading off and Castro appearing comfortable in the second hole, I would hit Byrd first and Castro second, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs make Castro the leadoff man.