April 27 (stats continue to update)
Evaluating leadoff hitters is a snap. To be successful in the gig, you need only get on base at a 36-37 percent clip and be able to propel yourself from first to third on a single without the aid of a crossing guard. That second qualification isn't essential, either. This is a mystery to precisely no one, except Dusty Baker.
Dobrow: Rays take over top spot
Ranking the big league closers, on the other hand, is a challenging exercise. On one hand, the job in its current incarnation isn't terribly difficult: Pitch a whopping three or four innings per week, most of them in nobody-on situations with a two-run lead. Considering these limited responsibilities, isn't it amazing that Brad Lidge managed to stink as relentlessly as he did in 2009? You'd think that sooner or later, he'd have accidentally run into a few outs.
On the other, we've come to expect that our closers arouse some kind of intangiblipidal fear in opposing batters, and such an aura is easily shattered. For instance, neither stat monkey nor abacus-reliant scout would dispute that Joe Nathan has been one of the game's elite closers over the last half-decade. Yankees fans, however, have seen their team scuff him enough that his arrival on the mound barely prompts a nibbled nail, much less "let's leave now and beat the traffic."
In conclusion, these rankings of leadoff hitters and closers might be extremely accurate. Or they might not. Enjoy.