It's been about a decade since "Moneyball" was published and sparked debate on the merits of advanced statistics, scouting and a host of other topics.
One of the slightly more overlooked, less controversial aspects of the book was its depiction of ideal leadoff hitters. Rather than the stereotypical speedy .300 hitter at the top of the lineup, it argued that a leadoff man's primary objective was to get on base as frequently as possible.
In the subsequent 10 years, there seems to have been a proliferation of leadoff batters who get on base efficiently, if not frequently, steal bases and occasionally add a little pop -- whether they hit anywhere near .300 or accumulate 50 steals in a season.
Few prospects better embody that modern take on the leadoff hitter than Marcus Semien.
The ninth-ranked White Sox prospect flashed just about every aspect of his game on Friday night, going 4-for-4 with a homer, a walk and three runs scored in Double-A Birmingham's 8-2 victory over visiting Mobile.
"I'm just trying to do everything I can to get on base," Semien said, "getting some pitches to hit and not trying to do too much with them. That's kind of my thing. Our hitting coach talks about when you're in the leadoff spot, you get on base any way you can and try and score runs, let the game come to you."
The University of California product, taken in the sixth round of the 2011 Draft, has been very good at doing just that this year. Through Friday, he's batting at a .287/.410/.468 clip.
That on-base percentage leads the Southern League and the 22-year-old shortstop boasts more walks (76) than strikeouts (63).
"If you're hitting at the top of the order, you don't want to be striking out a lot. You want to be getting on base and if you can take your walks, you gotta take them," Semien said. "That's the most important thing -- to score runs. And when I'm scoring runs, we're usually doing well, winning games. Only good things can happen."
He's actually improved on the kinds of skills he showed last year. With Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, he batted .273/.362/.471 in 107 games, knocking 14 homers and 31 doubles. And while that power spike came in a ballpark that's fairly conducive o offense, he's maintained it in the less friendly confines of Birmingham, with 13 homers and 20 doubles in 101 games.
"It's a pretty good park to hit at in Winston-Salem, you hit some balls good to left and it'll go out, for sure," he said. "This year, I'd say straightaway left field you can get it to go here, but it's a big yard. So I'm happy with the home run numbers, but I'm not gonna say I sit there and try and hit home runs. Sometimes it happens, and I'm happy with that."
For now, Semien is content to build on one of the most advanced approaches in the Minor Leagues.
"I'm just trying to stay on top of my routine, stay focused and not give any at-bats away," he said. "Pay close attention to what pitchers are trying to do to me and let it go from there. That's really about it."
Birmingham got a boost from Dan Black, who doubled, drove in two runs and scored three times. Mike Blanke also contributed a pair of RBIs.