Speed Either Way

While wildly speculating about Corey Hart’s upcoming season in a previous blog, I found myself wondering where exactly he would find himself in the batting order.  I profiled him as a potential 25/25 candidate, but noted that those chances might diminish if he was batting in front of Braun and Fielder for the simple fact that you don’t want to make outs on the bases with your sluggers coming up.

Ron Roenicke had some interesting comments on that point today.

“There’s no reason not to [run Hart with Braun at bat],” Roenicke said. “If he gets in scoring
position and they don’t want to pitch to Ryan, they have to pitch to
Prince (Fielder).”

Certainly doesn’t sound like Hart will have any trouble getting the green light even if he does bat second.

Still, I’m not convinced second is the best place for Hart.  He had a career-high on base percentage of .340 last year; I predicted he would replicate that by continuing to be selective at the dish.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for regression, and I think his skill set works much better in the number five or six spot.

Of course, the alternative at #2 is Carlos Gomez, who hasn’t exactly made selectivity his trademark.  At times last year, Gomez was just painful to watch; it seemed like he swung at everything, and the stats certainly back that impression up (.298 OBP, 72 K in 291 AB). 

In short, there’s nobody on this team like Robin Yount, who dominated the number two spot in the 1980s.  So it’s really not all that surprising that Roenicke doesn’t know who will find themselves batting second on March 31.  It sounds like he’s leaning towards Hart, but there’s plenty of qualification:

“[Hart’s] not your typical second hitter. But he’s done really well when
he’s in that spot. And he likes it in that spot. If you put in there, I
wouldn’t want to pitch to those first five guys. It makes it really
dangerous up front in that lineup. If (Carlos) Gomez can turn into a
.350 on-base percentage, Gomez would fit real nice in that second slot. I
don’t know if he can be a guy who can all of the sudden change that
much.”

Either way, there will be plenty of speed at the top of the Brewers lineup, with Weeks leading off and either Hart or Gomez following.  And it doesn’t sound like Roenicke is afraid to let guys on base show off their speed even with the big boppers at the plate.  It’s an interesting strategy, and an aggressive approach that I like.  While it might get frustrating watching Hart or Gomez run into an occasional out, over the course of the season we could very well see a lot more runs come across as a result.

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