Coming into this season, if you were told the Rays leadoff and second hitter would have OBP's of .296 and .313 respectively, you most likely would have written off the season as another failure. This is the production we have gotten thus far from Akinori Iwamura and Carl Crawford, yet we are in first place in the AL East. While the pitching has been able to carry the team this far, the Rays will need much more production from the top of the lineup if they plan on hanging around at the front of the pack all season.
Starting with Aki, looking at his .202/.296/.248 clip might cause some fans to go crazy, but he has done some things right. In comparison to last year, Aki's BB% has risen from 10.6% to 12.1% and his K% has slightly decreased as well. If his BB% has increased then his substantial drop in OBP must be due to his BABIP. His LD% has slightly decreased, but not to the point that it is substantially different. Thus far this season, his xBABIP is .310 while his BABIP is .253. Now compare those numbers to last season where his xBABIP was .322 and his BABIP was .359, and we can see that he has certainly been unlucky this year. This also shows that he was quite lucky last season and that we cannot expect for him to get on-base as he did last year. If we are not getting a .360 OBP guy, do we want to continue with having Aki as our leadoff hitter?
Crawford has also been a bit unlucky this season. CC's xBABIP this far is .368, while his BABIP is .321. He is only striking out 12.2% of the time, which is the lowest in his career. Last season, he struck out the most in his career (19.2%). His LD% is by far the best it has ever been in his career at 24.8%. The next closest in his career is 21.1% in 2003. All of this though, has been due to his lack of patience in the batters box. His BB% is 3.1, which is the lowest of his career. It has been mentioned by RJ that his numbers make him to be a below-average player at this point in the season. Anytime someone is posting a OBP of .313 at the 2nd spot in the order, he is performing below league average. I expect his OBP to rise a little due to better luck, but he will not be the superstar we make him out to be unless he learns to walk more. As fans we get caught up in the flashy plays that superstar athletes that players like Crawford make, but in reality the boring things like taking pitches are the difference between a superstar and Jason Tyner.
We can expect to see better production from both Aki and CC as the season progresses and as their luck progresses as well. However, I can't help but wonder if Aki will ever be the leadoff guy we want him to be. Crawford will be an above-average outfielder by seasons end, but whether he will be a "superstar" is the real question.