Corey Hart needs to rebound, cont.

Posted by Steve

I was reading over some of the Journal Sentinel’s Brewers by Position previews again, and a few things stood out to me on the Corey Hart preview.

The first is that Witrado is absolutely right–Hart’s at-bat in the last game of the season against the Cubs was the worst at-bat of the season by a Brewer.  It was probably the worst since Kevin Mench and Ned Yost combined to send me into a hulk-like rage a couple years ago.

The second is Hart’s quote about his September collapse.

“I wasn’t really praying to get on or praying to get a hit. At that point, I was just praying that it would be in the strike zone and I could put it in play. That’s how bad it was.”

Yikes!  At least he’s being honest, I guess.  I mean, that’s certainly what it looked like when I watched him at the plate.

The last thing I noticed was his attitude towards his second half in general.

“I hate when people say I had a bad second half,” Hart said. “I had one of the best Augusts on the team, but of course September is what people remember.”

Uh… Corey?  You did have a bad second half.  Here are your numbers: .239 average, .263 on-base percentage (!) and a .396 slugging percentage, for a brutal .659 OPS.  Sure, the putrid September brought that down some, but it was still poor.  Hart’s OBPs by month: .301 in July, .310 in August (Hart’s self-proclaimed “one of the best on the team) and .192 in September/October.  Sure, the .192 is extremely bad, but .301 and .310 is still well below average.

Hart’s struggles stem from his impatience.  Only five qualified players in the National League had fewer walks than Hart.  That does a couple things.  One, it makes his slumps worse.  Most every player will have at least one or two slumps in a season, but if he can draw walks it at least allows him to still occasionally reach base.  Hart really didn’t reach base at all when he was slumping.  Two, it makes his slumps even worse and more difficult to overcome.  If Hart’s swinging at anything, he’s not going to see a strike.  Obviously, that makes it harder to get hits.  I’m sure you remember all the sliders off the plate he saw down the stretch, and that was because he was willing to swing at them.

I’ve touched on this already, but Hart needs to have a much better year in 2009 if he wants to stay a Brewer in 2010.  In that regard, I think there’s probably more pressure on Hart than anyone else on the team.  You could argue Weeks, but I think he’s below Hart because there’s no viable replacement looming for 2010.  For Hart, the Brewers have Mat Gamel, Cole Gillespie and Lorenzo Cain looming as potential replacements should he struggle again.  By 2010, each of those three are likely to put up better than the .300 OBP Hart had last year, and Hart will be much more expensive than any of them.

Obviously, I’d love to see Hart rebound, and I think he can.  If you look at his career stats, 2008 really seems like it could be a fluke.  Hart’s never been overly patient, but he’s never been close to the hacker he was in 2008.  His walk rate in 2008 was well below his career average; he drew nine more walks in 2007 in 91 fewer plate appearances.

I like everything else about Hart.  He’s not bad at defensively, he has great speed and he’s a very good baserunner.  After 2007, in which he put up an .892 OPS, it looked like the Brewers should be building around him.  That can still be the case, but he’ll have to show them this season.

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