The Brewers Current Issue of ‘Who’s on First?’
By Curt Hogg
Monday night marked the transition from mere speculation to actual implication–Corey Hart started at first base.
Throughout spring training, the Brewers right fielder was rumored to be in the running for the starting job at first, but evidently maintained his home in right field after Mat Gamel did not relinquish the job. In years past, this had been the smallest issue on the minds of the Brewers organization with mainstay Prince Fielder manning first base. However, one large opening of the wallet in Detroit and a torn ACL later, the Brewers have started five players and first base this year.
However, don’t expect to see Hart permanently at first base, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Journal-Sentinel. And by all means is that the right call to make, and for 3 very good reasons:
- Corey’s offensive numbers would go down, much like Bill Hall’s significant drop in production in 2007 which went along with a transition to center field. More attention to a new position won’t help Hart, who is most beneficial to the Brewers when at the plate.
- Playing Corey at first would mean Nyjer Morgan or Nori Aoki would have to start against lefties. Take Nyjer out of the picture, because he is god-awful against southpaws (.199 career average). We can say Aoki is “good” against left-handers, but he looked absolutely silly against Jeremy Affeldt of San Francisco on Monday night.
- In 157 career starts, first baseman Travis Ishikawa is batting .281/.338./.442 with 18 homers and 84 RBI. Having him and Hart both in the lineup will is beneficial.
After years or reliability at first base, the 2012 Brewers have relunctantly turned into the modern-day version of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” Ishikawa has assumed over half of the starts in Gamel’s absence, followed by Taylor Green. Brooks Conrad, the second coming of Brad Nelson, started two games at first but was optioned back to AAA Nashville after a dismal 0-22 performance with Milwaukee. Hart became the fifth member of the not-so-distinguished club on Monday and may be making more appearances at first.
Roenicke noted that the former All Star may see more starts at first with left handers on the mound, such as with Barry Zito on Wednesday, and Hart’s response was much on the same page.
“I think he’ll do it mostly against lefties, especially because (Norichika) Aoki hits lefties so well (.364, and can take over in right field),” said Hart, who was drafted as a first baseman but had only one start there in the majors in 2006.
Ishikawa and Hart make up the most reasonable first base tandem on the Brewers, as Taylor Green can be used for his glove (and judging by Rickie Weeks’ horrid start, his bat, as well) in the middle infield and to give Aramis Ramirez a day off on the rare occasion. And as for Conrad, his chance has probably come and gone.
The question of “Who’s on first?” may not become a complete guessing game in the minutes leading up to the game: Ishikawa will take most starts unless a lefty is throwing, in which we will see Hart. The only question I have about this is…why, then, does George Kottaras still start against lefties when Randy Wolf pitches? But that’s a discussion for a different time.