Monday, September 20, 2010

Travis Hafner's Misleading Second Half Surge

There has been much rejoicing in Cleveland since the All-Star break about the resurgent performance of Travis Hafner who has performed exceptionally well. Hafner has put together one of his best prolonged stretches in, well, a long time. All told, he's managed a .320/.388/.504 line that, if extrapolated over a full year, would be his best OPS since 2006.

The Indians are obviously an offensively challenged organization. Beyond Shin-Soo Choo (who might be the current reigning champion in the most-under-rated-player contest), and Carlos Santana, the Tribe lacks much in the way of legitimate firepower. Yes, players like Asdrubal Cabrera and Matt LaPorta have the potential to be solid supporting bats, but they need more. Cabrera's best season was a .799 OPS mark in 2009, and LaPorta has yet to realize the considerable potential many once saw in him.

An effective Hafner, even at a rate of production significantly less than that he produced during his peak years would be a significant boost to one of the weakest lineup in the American League. Indeed a lineup featuring Pronk at his second-half .892 OPS, Choo, and Santana could compete against most lineups provided the team could bring in a couple extra complementary bats to augment the top and bottom of the order.

Unfortunately, it appears that Hafner's second half resurgence is little more than a fluke resulting from an unsustainable .407 BABIP. This from a player with a career mark of .316. Sadly, nothing fundamental has changed for Hafner, his strikeout, walk, and line drive rates, along with his ISO remain essentially unchanged during the streak.

The Indians need to generate production from the middle of their lineup in a bad way. But they'll have to find some way other than relying upon Hafner, because he's not going to be the answer.

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