Ladies and gentlemen it has happened.
The Brewers flight from Arizona got back to town late yesterday evening. That’s right, to be a bit corny: “The boys are back in town!”
There’s no word whether the team boarded by jersey number, but if they had then today’s final profile subject would have been the first one on.
He is the starting right fielder and will bat fifth tomorrow at Miller Park, despite not exactly piling up the at-bats this spring.
He wears the number one on his back. He is:
Standing 6’6″ tall and weighing an official 235 pounds, Jon Corey Hart came to camp in 2011 poised to continue making good on an off-season contract extension negotiated with the club before the 2010 season.
Hart had posted career-worst numbers in 2010 in several categories but negotiated his way in an arbitration hearing to a $4.8 million contract. I blasted Hart in this space for that situation, and was happy to be proven wrong to a degree in 2010.
So when he got hurt in Spring Training however and started the year on the disabled list, people had cause for concern both about missing his production and whether his long-term outlook would be affected.
He only played 130 total games after beginning the season on the DL with an oblique strain and, he would later admit, it shouldn’t have been that many. Hart told members of the media that he rushed back because he felt he could help the team even at less than 100%. It didn’t work well, and Hart realized that he should have stayed in minor league rehab games longer than he did.
When he was on the field in 2011, Hart continued two recent trends: increased power and greatly decreased speed.
His final statistics totaled:
130 G, 492 AB, 80 R, 140 H, 25 doubles, 4 triples, 26 HR, 63 RBI, 51 BB, 114 K, 7 SB, 6 caught stealing, .285/.356/.510
Hart had played in 15 more games in 2010 than 2011, and had gotten 64 more at-bats which resulted in better counting stats, but the rates of certain stats were up and with better health, Hart probably would have at least equaled his 2010 in many categories.
Two numbers that were exactly the same were Hart’s steals and caught stealings. It continued to be disconcerting because despite his 6’6″ frame, Hart was always a benefit on the bases. Hart stole 23 bases in both 2007 and 2008 before falling to 11 in 2009 and just seven the next two years.
Hopefully his realization about carrying the extra weight and subsequently dropping that weight will help Hart regain some of that lost quickness.
But has it made a difference? In a Spring Training where Jonathan Lucroy was running wild on the basepaths, how many stolen bases did Hart attempt? And what was his success rate?
We don’t know if Hart’s speed was positively affected in game situations because he only played in two official Cactus League games. And therein lies the x-factor for the Brewers in 2012: health.
In any season where position players stay healthy and are able to answer the bell 150 times or more, there is a lot of luck involved. For the second straight spring, the only kind of luck Hart had was bad luck.
While hurrying to Ryan Braun’s press conference at Maryvale Baseball Park this spring, Hart was wearing his spikes and slipped on some cement, damaging his meniscus, requiring surgery. While he was rehabilitating his knee, Hart was injured again in the weight room when a metal bar hit him in head, requiring eight stitches.
Having a good sense of humor about it all, Hart hit the nail on the head when he stated that he needs to just report to camp with about a week to go in Spring Training so as to limit his exposure to the perils of Arizona.
Four weeks to the day following knee surgery, Hart was back on the field playing. It’s quite a remarkable recovery in some respects, but Hart worked hard at his rehab to get himself ready.
In the two official games he played this spring, Hart was 3-for-6 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored. He also ran well in the outfield. Hopefully he can hit the ground running tomorrow afternoon.
Hart did have plenty of highlights in 2011 though.
He tied franchise records with a three-home run, seven-RBI game against the Washington Nationals. Hart produced five lead-off home runs after moving up the lineup following Rickie Weeks’ ankle injury in July. He put together an 18-game hitting streak which started on August 18th, during a month for which Hart would later earn team Player of the Month honors.
Hart also recorded a pair of home runs in the postseason while batting .244 (10-for-41).
As for 2012, if Hart’s knee remains healthy, I’d like to project a solid year at the plate. And if his conditioning changes are a benefit he’ll increase his value to the team both on the basepaths and in right field.
With the departures of Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee in the off-season, all the talk has been of how the combination of Aramis Ramirez and Mat Gamel will need to be able to make up the lost production. But if Hart adds 20 games to his register this season, hitting in the fifth spot in the order and coming through in RBI situations, that will combine into those offensive totals and significantly affect the outcome of several games.
But it all finally starts tomorrow at Miller Park.
We’ll see you there if you’re going, and we’ll see 25 of the men who were previewed and reviewed throughout the weeks leading up to tomorrow.
I’ve had a fun ride with this series and hope that you learned something along the way.
Thanks so much for reading and stay tuned all season as the articles and analysis will be here.
Batted .285 with 26 HR and 63 RBI in 130 games…..made 123 starts, all in right field…Established a career high in walks (51)…Committed only 2 errors the entire season for the second consecutive season…Missed the first 22 games of the season after suffering a left oblique strain in spring training….. was on the 15-day disabled list from 3/30-4/25, retroactive to 3/22…Appeared in 5 games at Triple-A Nashville from 4/19-4/25 during a rehab assignment…Batted .324 (69-for-214, 13hr, 32rbi) over his last 53 games of the season, raising his overall batting average from .255 to .285…Batted leadoff in his last 62 starts (77-for-256, .301, 15hr, 36rbi)…..had previously not started a game in that spot in the order since 7/22/09 at Pittsburgh…Hit 5 leadoff home runs: 7/19 at Arizona, 7/30 vs. Houston, 8/3 vs. St. Louis, 8/22 at Pittsburgh and 8/31 vs. St. Louis…..now has 7 career leadoff homers…Produced 3 HR and 7 RBI on 5/23 vs. Washington, tying franchise records…..the 3 HR marked his first homers of the season (22nd game)…..became the 10th player (15 times) in franchise history to hit 3 HR in a game…..joined Ted Kubiak (1970), Jose Hernandez (2001), Richie Sexson (2002) and Damian Miller (2007) as the only Brewers with 7 RBI in a game…Tied his career high (3x) with 4 hits on 7/30 vs. Houston, including a leadoff homer in the 6-2 victory…Was named Brewers Player of the Month for August (.321, 8hr, 17rbi)…Recorded a season-high 18-game hitting streak from 8/18-9/6, batting .359 (28-for-78) with 5 HR and 9 RBI…Batted .244 (10-for-41) with 2 HR and 5 RBI in 10 games during the postseason.