Over the past two years, Chris Heisey‘s has been Dusty Baker’s ace in the hole. If Dusty needed to call on someone in a clutch pinch-hitting situation and it was late in a game, it was usually Heisey’s number that was called. Well, Heisey may have other designs.
One of the obvious holes the Reds need to fill in heading into 2012 is that of left field. I briefly touched on that in the last BRM podcast. One of the names mentioned frequently to fill that void is, has, and almost always will be Chris Heisey.
A couple of months ago, I engaged in a Twitter conversation with some Reds fans over a concern I had in regards to a hole in Heisey’s game…the strikeout. As you can imagine, the name Drew Stubbs was mentioned a lot. But it went deeper than simply comparing their strikeout rates.
What caught my eye was the suggestion that Heisey is not getting the shot to start. That’s where strikeout rates were brought into the conversation. Considering at the time Heisey’s SO rate was the equivalent to the SO rate of Stubbs, I wasn’t sold on the move. I felt Stubbs was the Reds center fielder, no questions asked. I still hold that mindset.
I held other opinions as to why Heisey shouldn’t start: low numbers as a starter and how highly productive and valuable he is coming off the bench. Again, strikeouts were brought into the conversation. A Reds fan was adamant that Heisey’s SO rate would most likely drop if he were given enough time to play. I scoffed at this, then realized that it was completely possible.
One of the hardest “jobs” in baseball is pinch hitting. Most of us know why that’s the case. You’re sitting on the bench the entire game for one, just one crack to make a difference and with just one pivotal swing of the bat. You have the dreaded rust factor to consider. My opinion was starting to sway…
So I went to Heisey’s minor league numbers. Overall, he struck out 285 times in 2,032 plate appearances. That’s a rate of 14.0%. Since coming to the majors, that rate increases to 19.0% (100 SO in 525 PA). That is till 10 percentage points lower than Drew Stubbs (29.1%). Again, these are based off of plate appearances.
Another thing you notice in observing Heisey’s minor league career is that he really didn’t stay at one level too long. In 2007, he played at two levels (A and High-A), 2008 at 2 levels (High-A and AA), 2009 at 2 levels (AA and AAA). Last season, Heisey began in Louisville and was called up early on. You don’t move up unless you “get it”.
Since returning from a stint on the disabled list, Heisey has constructed a slash line of .296/.333/.667 with 6 HR and 12 RBI. He provided the winning margin last night with a three-run bomb in the 7th inning. He has also scored 8 runs. The only negative associated with this is he has many strikeouts (16) as he does hits. That can be balanced out in using that Twitter conversation I mentioned. A slight pause would also be that these 21 games only include 54 at-bats. He has started in only 11. That’s 10 games where he either was a pinch-hitter or a defensive replacement.
Refer to the statement above about being a pinch-hitter…
On the whole, Heisey’s numbers as a starter are not impressive: .241/.307/.493 with 14 HR and 34 RBI. He has whiffed 60 times in 226 plate appearances (26.5% SO rate). That’s still lower than you know you. I recall hearing that Heisey’s recent occupation of the DL afforded him the opportunity to review his approach while at the plate. That time seemingly has aided him.
One stat the does jump out at you: 18 HR in 299 PA. Those 18 funkblasts (thanks, Jamie) tie him for third on the team along with Brandon Phillips.
The differential in homers and RBI is easy to explain. Sometimes, Heisey is slotted at leadoff when he starts. The pinch-hitting gig…again.
Many fans, within the Reds fanbase and outside of it, believe Heisey is a legit MLB starter. If he continues the production he has shown so far this month, I can’t see why he wouldn’t be penciled in at no less than a platoon situation on left…or maybe it’s his outright.