Heading into Friday night’s series opener against the Houston Astros, the Rays started all 17 completed games with either Dickerson or Souza batting leadoff. They’ve combined to hit .306 (22-for-72), with 12 runs scored, 10 runs batted in, seven doubles, three home runs, a triple and six walks.
Including one pinch-hit walk by Peter Bourjos, Dickerson and Souza are posting Major League Baseball’s top slugging percentage (.556) and third-best on-base percentage (.367) and batting average.
Neither fit the mold of a typical top-of-the-order bat. Dickerson is a hard-swinging, 6-foot-1, 205-pounder and Souza is even bigger, at 6-foot-4, 225-pounds. They’ve combined for 29 stolen bases in 697 total games, which answers whether speed is a weapon for either. It is not.
The higher-than-anticipated on-base percentage is the most surprising early statistic produced by the new leadoff duo. Dickerson, who’s started 11 games batting atop the order, entered this season with a career .326 OBP, but that dipped to .293 last season. Souza produced a .303 OBP last season, which was consistent with his .308 career average.
For as well as the against-the-grain strategy has played out this month, Dickerson and Souza are both hitting even better when placed down in the order.
Souza is batted fifth during his 11 non-leadoff games and is slashing .359/.457/.564 compared to .333/.407/.667. He’s hit two homers and driven in 10 batting fifth and gone deep once and knocked in five batting leadoff.
Rays manager Kevin Cash has moved Dickerson all over the place in the order. In Dickerson’s five non-leadoff games, he’s batted second, fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth. The 27-year-old went a combined 5-for-12 in those five games (.417), homered once and doubled twice.