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May 2, 2013

Out of Left Field

Will Middlebrooks, and Beating Oneself

by Matthew Kory


Remember Kevin Maas? Maas was a 25-year-old rookie first baseman for the Yankees who came up in late June 1990. He wasn’t a huge prospect until he hit eight home runs in his first month. Then he was. He went on to hit 13 more over the remainder of the season, with a .904 OPS, and a 150 OPS+. He was even intentionally walked 10 times. It was good enough for a second-place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting, despite just 79 games played. 

So that was it, Maas was the next great Yankees slugger. Everyone bow down. Then 1991 happened. Maas hit 23 homers, but he needed twice as many plate appearances to do it. He put up a mediocre .220/.333/.390 slash line. There were certain pitches Maas just couldn’t hit when thrown in the right place. Opposing pitchers had learned them and Maas was unable to adjust. Two mediocre seasons later the Yankees cut him and, other than 64 plate appearances for the Twins in 1995, he was out of the majors for good. 
 
That is the cautionary tale for all rookies. Might take a week, might take an offseason, but major-league pitchers are so good that they’ll find something to get the hot rookie hitter out. Then they’ll keep doing it over and over and over (and over) until the rookie proves he can overcome it. If the rookie can’t adjust, can’t work the count, can’t foul off the pitcher’s pitches, can’t close up that hole, eventually he’ll be toast. 
 
Enter Will Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks came up mid-season last year and hit well. He wasn’t the slugger Maas was, but he knocked 15 homers and put up an exciting-for-a-23-year-old slash line of .288/.325/.509 in his first stint against major-league pitching. Middlebrooks was so good that the Red Sox gave incumbent third baseman Kevin Youkilis* to the White Sox like it was actual Kevin Youkilis giveaway day at Fenway Park and the White Sox were the only ones w

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Related Content:  Will Middlebrooks,  Kevin Maas

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Daily Roundup: Around ... (05/02)
<< Previous Column
Out of Left Field: Bos... (04/23)
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Out of Left Field: You... (05/08)
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Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (05/02)

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