Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Can McLouth rebound?

It gets said a million times, but spring training is just spring training. It's difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from the statistics being generated because, unlike during the regular season, the main objective of each team is not to win the game being played.

That said, Nate McLouth is having a very interesting spring. McLouth has come to the plate 20 times this spring and has not struck out a single time. Since being called up to the big leagues, Nate McLouth has never - never - gone more than 18 consecutive plate appearances without striking out. That stretch of plate appearances ran from September 8-11th of 2005 when McLouth was a rookie and a Pittsburgh Pirate.

It's an especially encouraging sign after 2010, when an inability to make contact in April and May (68% contact rate and 72% contact rate, respectively) caused him to be demoted to a part-time role before a June concussion caused him to miss most of the season's remainder. McLouth was much improved when he got healthy. In fact, McLouth's .467/.636/.800 spring comes on the heels of a September where he hit .275/.339/.549 in September while making contact 86% of the time in 51 AB.

Even by spring training standards, it's still extremely early to be making statistics-based judgements about player performance. But with Jordan Schafer scuffling at the plate again (.182/.206/.212), McLouth looks primed to claim the center field position outright. He's still not a very good defensive center fielder, but the Braves will be happy if his bat has regained the potency that it once had in Pittsburgh.

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