Following the 2007 season, outfielder Denard Span underwent corrective laser surgery on his right eye, enabling him to compete at a higher level in a sport that requires the ultimate hand-eye coordination.
As a left-handed batter, he leads with the surgically repaired eye, which was on full display Wednesday night against Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka and his mythical gyro ball. In three at-bats against Japan's national treasure, Span got three hits, raising his batting average to .314, to go along with a roughly .400 on-base percentage.
Evaluating what makes a good lead-off hitter is subjective, and can change from expert to expert, but it's hard to not take into account a player's ability to get on base, then eventually into scoring position. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone associated with the game who would disagree with that assessment. Span has consistently done that from opening day on.
Another key component to hitting lead-off is the ability to see a fair amount of pitches. Heading into Friday's game against the Rays, Span averaged 3.93 pitches per plate appearance, placing him in the top half in the league in that category.
As for runs scored, he's crossed home plate 28 times, good for a four-way seventh place tie in the A.L. and that statistic is something out of Span's control. Presumably, if Joe Mauer was the number two hitter from May 1 on, that number would be higher. The two hole was a black hole before Mauer moved into that spot.
Breaking down a lot of offensive categories comparing the league-wide lead-off guys, Span is continually popping up in the top-three. According to baseball-reference.com, Span is sixth among all players in the league in total bases (85). Through almost one-third of the season, Span, in many ways, is having a better season than Grady Sizemore of the Indians, Curtis Granderson of the Tigers, and Derek Jeter of the Yankees.
Bottom line: Span is developing into a versatile, speedy star, who does his job as well as anyone.
When Twins fans found out that Span would have to miss a couple games this week because of dizziness, they got dizzy, a feeling I also experienced after hearing about some recent Steve Phillips comments.
Last Sunday night, during the ESPN broadcast of the Twins-Brewers game, Phillips, in the bottom of the eighth inning, said the following: "They really need that proto-typical lead-off man. I'm not sure they really have him. Denard Span has done a nice job so far of getting on base, I'm not sure he's that guy. I think he's better in the number seven spot in the lineup than he is in the one spot."
After hearing about Phillips torching Carlos Beltran of the Mets on a recent telecast, I thought he couldn't top himself, but he definitely has. His opinion is massively misguided.
Maybe he's the one who needs lasik.