Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
First base continues to be a worrisome issue. It has been masked by the Brewers hot streak and an 12-5 start to the 2014 season, but already alarm bells are sounding.
Preseason left a number of Brewers fans perplexed by the decision to platoon Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds, especially coupled with the release of Juan Francisco. Francisco put up a .346 batting average in Spring Training and showed better place discipline than during the 2013 regular season. However, the strange decision was made to jettison Francisco in favor of a struggling Overbay, hitting just .208 with a mere two extra base hits.
Unsurprisingly, Francisco was quickly snapped up by the Toronto Blue Jays, where he was assigned to their AAA affiliate Buffalo Bisons. Since, he has pounded the ball, with a .349 average and 11 RBI’s in as many games. Of course, it is hard to compare AAA with the Brewers tough April MLB schedule, but these numbers far outstrip both the remaining first basemen.
Reynolds has shown some promise in his 13 games, hitting 3 home runs. However, as expected he already has a woeful 18K’s in just 45 plate appearances. Furthermore, he is batting just .200, with 5 walks on the season and .059 during the last week (prior to last nights 2 for 4 outing). Bizarrely, this means Reynolds’ OBP is identical to his counterpart Overbay.
It is therefore hard to believe that aside from OBP, Overbay’s performance at first base is even more woeful. Batting just .100 with a pair of doubles, although he at least is putting bat on ball. Currently, Overbay has 5 walks to just 3 strikeouts to start the season.
So, how bad is it? The Brewers are currently 29th in first base batting average at a combined .169. It seems almost inconceivable that first base output is worse than .206 batting average of 2013. However, aside from Reynolds 3 home runs, there is little positive to report and the decision to axe Francisco looks more ill-advised every day.
The romantic in me wanted to see Overbay return in a blaze of glory and start to pound out doubles on a daily basis, similar to 2004. Unfortunately, Overbay hasn’t been that effective since 2006 for the Blue Jays and the realist knew that once again the Brewers were heading for disaster at first.
We are only 17 games into the season, but a deep batting slump at first is being hidden by positive results. Surely back room staff must be looking at possible options, such as free agent Kendrys Morales, as a the team can’t afford to carry passengers.