Every weekday between now and mid-November, we'll be looking closer at a Tigers player. For more information on the series, including a schedule, please check this post out.
Brennan Boesch's season just begs for cliches. Is it a curious case? A tale of two halves? Spare me. What it was, was a somewhat flawed rookie with power potential starting off red hot before the rest of the league figured out how to get him out. At that point, he was ice cold, where he remained the entire second half.
If you were grading the halves as semesters, he was clearly an A in the first one, with a .990 OPS, 49 RBI and 12 HR. After the All-Star Break ,he dropped to a .459 OPS with two HR and 18 RBI. If that's not worthy of a failing mark, it's not much above it. Overall, I'd call his season a bit below average, so I give him a C.
At the plate:
|162 Game Avg.||162||624||565||60||145||32||4||17||82||9||1||49||121||.256||.320||.416||.736||99||235||6||6||0||4||6|
Like I said at the top, Boesch really had a split season. For awhile, he could do no wrong. He hit for power. He hit for average. A scout told ESPN.com he was a plus-batter in every hitting zone. Heck, he even began to take some walks. Of course, the warning signs were there, and his BABIP hanging around the .400 mark was a pretty good indicator something might fall out. As well, the scouting report on him before his MLB debut said that he had a few holes in his swing and was a free swinger. Still, six weeks or so into his MLB career you were hard pressed to find them.
In mid-May, Boesch's season peaked. But it took until the weekend before the All-Star Game for the house of cards to start to shake. He went 2-for-35 during a tough stretch after the break, highlighted by a 1-for-7 day in Cleveland. The power fell off, too, and Boesch did not hit his first home run of the second half until Aug. 6. That was an empty stretch that dated back to June 27. It got so bad for Boesch that Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon walked Miguel Cabrera repeatedly, and Boesch could do nothing but produce out after out. Manager Jim Leyland said he came very close to sending the rookie back to Triple-A Toledo to work things out, but ultimately he decided not to. Unfortunately Boesch never turned things around.
In case you're wondering, Boesch's BABIP was so bad in the second half it ended up .297 for the season. An interesting quirk: As a left hander, he was a much better batter against left-handed pitching (.951 OPS) than right (.673). He did not have a reverse-platoon of that magnitude in the minors.
Overall, Boesch's season produced decent numbers, but the reality is that he was cold for several weeks longer than he was hot.
In the field:
If you look at UZR, Boesch was an above-average left fielder, but below-average right fielder. That's interesting, because he spent most of his time in right field during his minor league years. Of course, you never want to read too much into an incomplete season of UZR. So looking at the 2010 Scouting Report by the fans presented by TangoTiger, we learn Boesch was ever-so-slighly below average. He ranked 47 on a 0-100 scale with 50 being set as average. He was given high accolades for his throwing strength, but fans felt like his hands and instincts were quite a bit below average.
What 2010 tells us about 2011:
Boesch isn't going to be handed a spot in 2011. As some have pointed out, we praise Ryan Raburn for hitting well the final two months of the season, but look at Boesch with suspicion after he hit for only the first two months. Of course, the big difference is that opposing pitchers and coaches had a lot more time to figure Raburn out. Once Boesch was around the league for a few months, the book was out. It was written so well that he could do very little to turn things around, and suffered a lack of confidence for it by the end of the year. (Who wouldn't?) So now some people out there are probably wondering if he's Chris Shelton Part Deux.
Can Boesch bounce back? He has to adapt as a batter, but it certainly seems possible he can make some changes. The power should return. Still the lack of a batter's eye is a concern.
What's my best guess for 2011? I think the Tigers go out and find an outfielder, and Boesch ends up in a competition to make the team during spring training. Will he win? Hard saying. But I suspect management will look at him as a guy who might benefit from seeing some minor league pitching before a return to the Tigers. His natural talent is somewhere between his peak and valley. I'd guess an on-base in the low-to-mid 300s and a slugging average somewhere in the 400s. He has the potential to get hot at any time, but overall expectations should be kept panked down.
I used Baseball Reference, Fangraphs and the 2010 Scouting Report for this article.