On this Saturday Morning before the Braves wander up to Port St. Lucie to play the Mets a headline in the Savannah Morning Herald caught my eye. It read Braves want McLouth to regain old form. Now let me be absolutely clear, I’d like nothing better than for Nate McLouth to hit 285, with 15 homers, 65RBI, 50 steals and have an OBP of 375. That – or anything close to that – would be a hell of a season and mean the Braves and Phillies are locked up in a battle for the division. But expecting that kind of season is simply not realistic.Expecting even 2008 numbers mean your memory is short or you are an eternal optimist and have a unicorn living out back
Nate Mclouth is what he has always been a mediocre center fielder with a weak arm who’ll give you 13-16 homers 40 RBI and a .249/.339/.429/.769 slash line. In 2008 he had that once in a player’s lifetime career year. Playing in just 14 more games than 2007 his hits increased 94%, his doubles increased 120%, his RBI increased 147% and he doubled his home run total. Nothing in his career prior to that gave any indication of that kind of consistent production. On the basis of that the Pirates – not known for shrewd player decisions in during their prior 15 years – decided to give him a nice pay raise and contract extension. April 2009 was a very good month, after that he returned to 2007 levels. As the Pirates began to regret the contract the Braves were actively seeking seeking a center fielder/leadoff man who could energize them for a post season push. So when the GM sent the Gorkys Hernandez (minors), Jeff Locke (minors) and the talented but erratic Charlie Morton it looked on the surface to be an okay if not outstanding deal.
McLouth’s 2009 numbers as a Brave facing the tougher NL East pitching staffs slumped to a .237/.356/.367/.723 slash line 6 homers and 21 RBI. Allowing for the better pitching these numbers match very closely his pre-2008 career. The 2010 season is probably not a great way to evaluate McLouth. He started slowly, got injured and only returned to his usual self in the late season run after his September call up.
Nate McLouth is by all accounts a nice, hard working guy who genuinely wants to be that 2008 player again. If he gets on base regularly, steals 25+ bases, learns to bunt runners over and reduces his strike outs (he strikes out about 3 times for every 4 hits he gets, a power hitter can live with that, an on-base guy has to do better) he could be a useful part of a post season chasing team. What you can expect from him is a line closer to 249/.339/.429/.769, 14 and 40 than the 276/.356/.497/.853 , 26 and 94 of 2008. Anyone looking for more should shed their rose colored glasses.