Last night I watched two former Brewers, Mark Kotsay and Jeff Suppan, beat up on the Brewers like they were playing against a AA double club. It was made even more disheartening when you realize that part of the reason this ungodly show of talent from wholly untalented ballplayers happened with the help of one of their former teammates, Mr. Corey Hart.
It doesn’t take an expert to realize that Hart has lost (at least) a step in right field. He has a harder time now judging balls off the corners then he did in years prior. From a defensive standpoint, Hart is becoming more of a liability for a Brewers Outfield that really only has Braun to hang it’s hat on to begin with.
So the question becomes – what do we do with Corey Hart?
The problem with Hart is that he is rapidly becoming a one-dimensional player. He’s not as fast on the bases any longer, and he certainly takes more time to run down balls in right field. It’s surprising to see from someone just over 30, but with his history of injury it would appear a career’s worth of bumps and bruises are starting to take their toll on him.
He’s pushing for power now more than he has at any point in career, as evidenced by the fact that he has struck out nearly a third of his at-bats in the last ten games alone to bring his total up to 25 for the year. He’s still hitting well at .280 but you get the feeling he’s beginning to press a lot more and the plate discipline that was so surprising from him at the beginning of the season has given way to the Hart of old. You know, the one that buckles and chops at every breaking ball that leaves the pitcher’s hand.
I don’t thoroughly dislike Corey, I’ve just never believed that he was all he’s been cracked up to be. I think the onset of age and the compounded injuries have certainly taken a toll on him, and something needs to be done to preserve his bat and his value to the ball club. He has value on the trading market, to be sure, but I don’t think Hart would be able to garner anything significant for the club’s deficiencies by being traded. I just know he can’t stay in right field for ever.
With the news coming down today about Mat Gamel and his injury, there may be a silver lining in this story and way to keep Hart productive and in the lineup. When Hart was drafted, he was picked primarily as a first baseman, and shuffled through the lineup at different outfield positions. He knows first base, and his range factor and fielding percentage in the minors and four games of first in the majors can attest to his pedigree there. It’s not an outstanding resume, to be sure, but one has to start somewhere. Neither Travis Ishikawa nor Hart can play regularly at first, but the two of them platooning will easily solve the issue of Gamel’s absence and have the added bonus of giving Hart less to worry about besides swinging the bat.
It would also give Aoki the chance to play everyday in the corner – the man made his name in Japan playing corner outfield after all. The fact that we gave him so much money to be a bat off the bench and a platooned center fielder is, to say the least, kind of silly. He’s younger than Hart, faster in the field and on the bases, and plays a style of Cobbian baseball that the Brewers can actually benefit from with their lack of demonstrable power.
It’s tough when someone you like starts fall off, but facts are facts. The heart of the matter is that Corey is getting older, he’s banged up, and he just isn’t the player he once was in the outfield. He’s currently ranked 50th in the Major Leagues in range factor for an outfielder, and even though his fielding percentage is still perfect, it doesn’t take much more than watching a game to see that his legs aren’t what they used to be and his presence in right field leaves something to be desired. It’s time for a change, and I think that change would do Hart some good.