Alonso in lead-off slot makes perfect sense when you look at the numbers

Venable a .435 hitter in St. Louis

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

From reading my emails and twitter responses, a lot of Padres fans were stunned Friday when they read the starting lineup with first baseman Yonder Alonso hitting in the lead-off spot for the first time in his Major League career.

Even one follower that I know to be a believer in sabermetrics was surprised.

To me, putting Alonso in the toip spot made more sense than it seemed.

Padres interim manager Pat Murphy is on record as saying "you want your best hitters to get the most chances to hit."

Therefore, Alonso - while not possessing the speed of a classical lead-off hitter - is a logical choice. And as Padres fans know, this is not the season of the classical lead-off hitter. The Padres have already used outfielders Wil Myers and Matt Kemp at the top of the order.

Alonso is hitting .309 this season with a .395 on-base percentage. Both those marks pace the Padres. Plus, they are the 12th-best batting average and the fifth-best on-base percentage among all National League players with at least 175 plate appearances.

Plus, Alonso is hitting .367 (36-for-98) with a .467 on-base percentage in 29 road games this season with five doubles, a home run and 13 RBIs. That is the second-highest batting average, the second-best on-base
percentage and the 13th-highest OPS of any Major League hitter with more than 100 plate appearances on the road this season.

Alonso has reached base in 12 straight road starts and 31 of his last 32 road starts while hitting .395 (45-for-114).

If Alonso had enough plate appearances to qualify - he missed 23 games while on the disabled list from May 8 to June 1 with a bone bruise in right scapula - he would rank eighth among the National League leaders in batting average and fifth in on-base percentage.

Putting Alonso at the top of the order seems perfectly logical to me.

FROM THE SCORECARD:

--Alexi Amarista didn't play Friday night. If he did, the question might have been where? When Amarista played third base Thursday night following the ejection of Yangervis Solarte, it marked the sixth position he has played this season - shortstop, second, third, left field, center field and his one-third of an inning as a pitcher.

--The Padres 13 shutouts in the first half of the season were the most by a Major League team since the 1981 Toronto Blue Jays were also shut out 13 times in the season's first 81 games. The Padres were shutout 19 times in 2014 when they were at the bottom of most Major League offensive statistics. The Padres record for shutouts in a season is 23
in both 1969 and 1976.

--Right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley has allowed four hits with seven strikeouts in a pair of two-inning scoreless outings in his last two appearances. Over his last 18 appearances, Kelley has allowed four runs on 15 hits and two walks while striking out 23 in 21 innings - an earned run average of 1.71 - lowering his season earned run average from 9.35 to 3.77.

--Right fielder Will Venable is 2-for-5 in the first two games in St. Louis, including Thursday night's game-winning, two-run, pinch-hit homer in the 11th. Venable has a lifetime .317 (38-for-120) batting average against the Cardinals with nine doubles, five homers and 16 RBIs in 37 games. In 20 career games in St. Louis, Venable is hitting .435 (30-for-69).