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Believe It or Not, He's Really Good

by Tim Muma                                                         7/19/2012
(Twitter: @brewersblend)                                       11:45pm

(Note: Reading this may cause some fans feelings of irritation and disbelief)

He's taller than the average Major Leaguer, hails from Kentucky (and doesn't hide that fact), and collects tattoos at an alarming rate.
Don't let the
tats fool you
He has always looked a touch unorthodox on the baseball diamond, thanks in part to those aforementioned traits - and perhaps that is why he has been undervalued by a majority of Brewers' fans.

Despite what you think you know, Corey Hart is a better, more important player than most people probably realize.

Is he terribly frustrating at times?   
  • "Please, for the love of God, LAY OFF THE LOW AND OUTSIDE SLIDER!!!"  (Oh yeah)

Is he difficult to watch? 
  • "When did Corey Hart get so slow?  He barely scored from first on that triple! Is he even hustling in the outfield?"  (Yep, a little bit)

His length producers power,
but creates holes in his swing
Through all the strikeouts (3rd-most in NL), awkward movements in the outfield and 1st base, and "perceived" mental weakness in big spots, Hart has been Milwaukee's biggest contributor the past six seasons - after Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, that is. 

Since becoming a full-time player in 2007, Hart has posted an OPS of .865 or better 3 times. He belted 20+ HR in 4 different years (24, 20, 31, 26) and he already launched 17 this season. In '07 and '08 he utilized his surprising speed to steal 23 bases in each year and twice was named an All-Star.

Hart's long swing and propensity to chase pitches out of the zone prevent him from being the consistent hitter everyone wishes he could be, but at the end of each season, he's normally in the top 3rd of the league in terms of overall production, and top 10 among all Major League right fielders.

2007-2012:  All MLB Right Fielders

4th in Home Runs - 130 (behind Bautista, Swisher and Pence)
5th in Doubles - 185
6th in Runs Scored - 451
7th in Slugging Percentage - .493
10th in Isolated Power - .217 (raw power/ability to hit for extra bases - NL Avg .147)
12th in Wins Above Replacement - 16.5

The rankings from '07-'12 include 63 players who qualify based on innings played and plate appearances. So, among the 63 right fielders, Hart has proven himself more productive than 80% of his peers in a number of major categories (he's also 18th in OPS). Also, keep in mind, these stats are counted only as a right fielder, so some of Hart's numbers from 2012 aren't counted here because he's accumulated 176 plate appearances as a 1st baseman.

Even this season, amidst his agonizingly, aggravating empty cuts that lead to stretches of disgusting performances, Hart continues to get results and often support Braun in the lineup. Coming into Thursday, Hart was in the top 25 in the entire National League in a number of offensive stats.

2012: All of NL
Hart and Sedar have shared many
pleasantries over the years

8th in Home Runs - 17
9th in Isolated Power - .242
10th in Doubles - 24
12th in Runs Scored - 54
16th in Slugging Percentage - .504
22nd in OPS - .824

I could probably name 10 people I know that cannot stand Corey Hart, but I can only think of one that loved him, but that was when he was coming up as a prospect. Many people believe he is "anti-clutch" and a guy you don't want at the plate in late game, pressure situations because he often will fail.

Well, the stats don't exactly bear that out...

Hart's Career Splits (2012 NL Average)

Runners in scoring position
Batting Average - .271 (.246)
Slugging Percentage - .468 (.389)
OPS - .810 (.724)

Man on 3rd, 2 outs
Batting Average - .273 (.227)
Slugging Percentage - .547 (.373)
OPS - .907 (.714)

Man on 3rd, less than 2 outs
Batting Average - .381 (.291)
Slugging Percentage - .568 (.439)
OPS - .951 (.768)

Late and close (7th inn. or later with batting team tied, ahead by 1 or tying run at least on deck)
Batting Average - .254 (.238)
Slugging Percentage - .438 (.370)
OPS - .762 (.689)

Miscellaneous situations - OPS
2 outs, runner in scoring position - .850 (.711)
Tie game - .825 (.734)
Within 1 run - .839 (.718)
Within 2 runs - .832 (.724)

Because we (as Brewers' fans) watch our team the most often and see the negatives on a daily basis, it appears the players we root for are worse than they truly are (in most cases). Hart has plenty of warts and he goes through stretches of bad baseball, so it's easy for Brew Crew fans to nitpick his faults - especially during a two-week period when he looks lost.

He is what he is, and in the long run,
that's a good thing for the Brewers
However, the stats say Hart is continually well above average offensively and quite "clutch" if you go by the numbers. Considering the dearth of offense the past couple of seasons, particularly in the National League, Hart is unbelievably valuable - even if he drives us nuts at times.

Now at 1st base, he's impressed coaches, players and fans with his glove and footwork. Hart still has those awkward moments, but he has been a pleasant surprise on the infield and keeps on hitting.

So the next time you shudder as Hart comes to the dish with the game on the line, take a deep breath, have a little faith and remember you're actually watching one of the better hitters in the league...if he's not in one of his 3-week slumps.

Take the good with the bad, because he delivers far more often than anyone wants to believe...or cares to admit.


  1. Thanks for the research. I'm a Hart fan, and I think other fans hold him up to his "all-star" numbers of the past. He's already been worth 1.8 WAR this season, which is ahead of Ichiro, Swisher, Pence, Justin Upton, Bryce Harper, Bruce and Cuddyer; and about 13th among other right-fielders. I guess this makes him an above average RF. When you compare him to other 1B this season, he ranks 8th. (behind Votto, Encarnacion, Goldschmidt, Teixeira, Fielder, Konerko and Pujols). Not too shabby.

    WAR isn't the perfect stat , but thought I would add it to the conversation.

  2. I have a love/hate relationship with WAR, but I do believe it has plenty of validity. Many of the baseball guys I follow trust in least to a certain extent.

    His move to 1B does make things even more interesting because that's a position that's actually gotten thin in terms of star talent. As you mentioned, he's in the top 3rd potentially in value at 1B. The eye test certainly suggests he's a better defender there than in RF as well.

    The Crew has some interesting decisions to make with Hart in the next couple of years.

    Thanks for adding to the piece. Please continue to comment...I love getting feedback, whether you agree or disagree.


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