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February 18, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Donnybrook - Corey Hart

by Michael Jong and Michael Street

BP readers, it's time to leave the benches and bullpens and join the Donnybrook! Leave your comments below about which side you're on, or suggest another Donnybrook question for two BP writers to tussle over. Today's question: "Has Corey Hart finally arrived?"

Michael Street: Milwaukee fans and fantasy owners have had a love/hate relationship with Corey Hart. Check out his performance since his 2007 breakthrough:

Year

BA

OBP

SLG

HR

SB

BB%

K%

2007

.295

.353

.539

24

23

6.4

19.6

2008

.268

.300

.459

20

23

4.1

17.8

2009

.260

.335

.418

12

11

9.1

22.0

2010

.283

.340

.525

31

7

7.3

25.1

As BP 2010 pointed out, Hart’s scuffling in 2008 and 2009 may have come from increased patience. Perceiving that 2008’s backsliding came from his career-low walk rate, Milwaukee tried to make him less aggressive in 2009. He responded with a career-best walk rate, while also producing the line above along with the unexpected results BP spoke of: he improved against righties but began to struggle against southpaws. An appendectomy effectively ended his 2009 season on August 2 just as he was beginning to heat up (.329/.393/.487 in 84 PA), so those missing months might have shown us further development.

In 2010, he finally found a groove, equalizing the above trends. His walk rate regressed, remaining above his 6.6 percent career average, and he returned to slapping around lefties to the tune of .318/.378/.595 while putting up a very nice .271/.327/.500 line against fellow righties. The only down stat, his seven SBs, had a lot to do with Ken “Red Light” Macha. His .324 BABIP suggests some luck helped, as did his 16.8 HR/FB ratio, but neither are that high compared to his career averages of .310 and 12.4 percent. The latter could hold him below the 30 HR barrier, but new manager Ron Roenicke (a Mike Scioscia protégé) should boost his SB total.

PECOTA’s .271/.331/.473 projection feels good, if a bit low, even if his decreasing contact rate suggests BA instability. His .282 TAv ties him for 26th among all outfielders and places him firmly where he belongs, as a good, but not top-tier, fantasy option who will contribute in all roto categories without carrying any of them. His herky-jerky history and small-market status could keep other owners away, but you shouldn’t be fooled: Corey Hart has arrived.

Michael Jong: The esteemed Mr. Street pointed out the very problems I have with believing that Corey Hart has "arrived" in any significant fashion. Hart has performed at a 2010 level before in 2007, only to fall back down to earth for two straight seasons. His last power packed year in 2007 had all the trappings of a fluky strong year, including a career-best BABIP (.321) and HR/FB rate (13.0 percent). In 2010, he had almost a carbon-copy repeat, with a .324 BABIP and a 16.0 percent HR/FB rate that represent new career highs. How can Hart be expected to maintain his 2010 numbers when those numbers represent career highs and are coming at a more advanced age (Hart will be 29 in 2011) than his first breakout in 2007?

One major difference that is noticeable between Hart's two career seasons is his strikeout rate. In 2007, Hart's free-swinging ways netted him a 17.5 percent strikeout rate, while in 2010 his renewed hacking approach saw him whiff in 22.8 percent of pitches. The majority of these extra strikes came via the swing-and-miss variety, as Hart missed on a career high 28.5 percent of pitches swung at. In fact, Hart never really returned to swinging freely in the first place; he saw 3.84 pitches per plate appearance in 2010, which was almost identical to his 2009 numbers, and swung at only 1.3 percent more pitches this past season than the last.

Hart won't repeat his 2010 season or even come really close to doing so without some assistance from the luck dragon. But PECOTA's 2011 projected line of .271/.331/.473 also seems appropriate, if a bit high, to me. The 20.2 percent projected strikeout rate represents a number higher than his career 19.4 percent mark, but if the two-year trend of increased strikeouts continues, that slash line will plummet and all of his categories would suffer. Whether that qualifies as "arriving" is up to the reader to decide.

Michael Jong is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Michael's other articles. You can contact Michael by clicking here

Related Content:  Corey Hart

13 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

JimmyJack

Put me down for 270/320/470 w/20-25 HR & 10 SB.

Feb 18, 2011 08:55 AM
rating: 0
 
Marc Normandin

I'm a Corey Hart fan, honestly. I think injuries have done a lot to keep him from producing at the level he is capable of, so seeing him match (or exceed) his PECOTA forecast wouldn't surprise me.

Feb 18, 2011 09:37 AM
rating: 0
 
woodruff11

You both say that you are more or less comfortable with his PECOTA forecast so as M Jong said it really does come down to how the reader defines arriving. I'll say no. This is not a new level of performance; he's just not as good or bad as we've seen in the past.

Suggestion for future Donnybrook - Will Dexter Fowler break out in 2011?

Feb 18, 2011 11:38 AM
rating: 0
 
pobothecat

Or --- Do Nasty, Scraggledy-A** Beards Affect ADP?

Feb 18, 2011 12:03 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Right on, pobo! Corey Hart's Amish/Abe Lincoln look really doesn't help his cause much, IMO. Unlike Brian Wilson, I don't think his model makes people "Fear the Beard."

In all seriousness, I think that fans and analysts still consider guys with the "baseball face" that Moneyball discusses. Is baseball still a clean-shaven sport (mustaches aside). It would be an interesting, albeit somewhat whimsical, study to see where bearded players land in drafts. Did beards help or hurt Johnny Damon or Jason Werth (or Brian Wilson, for that matter)?

Good to hear from you again, pobo!

Feb 18, 2011 12:18 PM
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

That's a very good point--"arriving" is a relative term. If it means, "Corey Hart's arrived as a first-round stud," then I'd say "no." If it's "Corey Hart's arrived as a reliable fantasy commodity," then I'd say, "yes" (as I did above). In your case, you seem to be saying, "Will Corey Hart repeat 2010's level of performance." For that, I'd say likely not.

I like your Donnybrook selection, and Marc will put it into the Donnybrook hopper :D

Thanks for the comment!

Feb 18, 2011 12:12 PM
 
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff

I'll add this to what Mike said: I'm a little more skeptical about Hart's performance than Mike or Marc, so I'm leaning negative in the debate even if I feel like PECOTA's projection is the best answer. I'm just not a fan of those increasing strikeout totals.

Feb 18, 2011 15:23 PM
 
thebigfella.us

Here's a twist - who has a better 2011, Corey Hart or Matt Kemp? A case of was Kemp's year more real in 2010 or was Hart's 2010 closer to a real look at the future?

Feb 18, 2011 18:11 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

Good question--PECOTA likes them about the same, except for SBs, which bumps Kemp's TAv significantly.

We'll have Marc add this one to the Donnybrook question list--thanks for the question!

Feb 18, 2011 18:29 PM
 
nicholj

I am surprised that there was no mention of the fact that he lost 22 pounds prior to the 2010 season using the 'insanity' workout or his high percentage of 'just enough' home runs per Stat Tracker.

Feb 19, 2011 08:36 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

To be honest, I wasn't aware of his insanity workout, and I follow Milwaukee quite closely. Offseason conditioning and alterations in swing/batting stance (see: Jose Bautista) is something that a statistical angle on players never quite covers. That undoubtedly helped him; let's hope that his new extension last year doesn't lead to offseason complacency.

However, the "just enough" HRs are a concrete reflection of the lucky HR/FB rate that both Mike and I mention. Some days the ball carries out, and some days it doesn't--he's likely to see some regression in HRs, as both of us note.

Thanks for the comment!

Feb 19, 2011 11:56 AM
 
davinhbrown

with his K% rising 3 years in a row, and his SB dropping 3 years in a row, and he hits behind Braun/Fielder so less runs scored.... doesn't that make him valuable only in two categories for fantasy?

It's very reasonable to project about 25 HRs, and good RBIs... but I wouldn't bet more than 5-7 steals and definate drop in Avg from last year.

Feb 19, 2011 10:30 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Michael Street
BP staff

As I mentioned in my writeup, I think his steals were held back by Ken Macha; the team's SB totals all went down under him. I would expect more than 7 SBs, depending on where he hits in the lineup, which brings up your second issue. He hit both 2nd and 6th throughout 2010, and while Roenicke could put him in either spot (he's hit better lower in the order in his career), he seems the best fit for 2nd. That, and Roenicke's promise to run more, means his R and SB should be just fine, though (again) not at elite levels.

Rising K% does lead to fluctuating BA, and it's one of the things holding him back from being a real top-notch fantasy option. Hitting 2nd in front of Fielder/Braun should help him see more strikes, which could offset some of that whiffiness. But the BABIP fairy (or the luck dragon) is unlike to bestow its blessings on him two years running, so I'd agree that a repeat of .283 BA seems unlikely.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Feb 19, 2011 11:52 AM
 
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Transaction of the Day... (02/17)
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Fantasy Beat: How Not ... (02/16)
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