Thursday, January 27, 2011
Previewing the 2011 Season: Corey Hart
Hart finished April having played only 17 of the Brewers' 23 games. He batted .270 throughout April (average for Hart, but better than his average for both 2008 and 2009) with 3 HR. Hart's average faltered somewhat in May (.253) but his power increased, knocking 10 HR for the month. In June Hart really picked up steam, batting .314 with 5 HR. He took a hitting streak from June into July, collecting hits in 20 straight games. In spite of not being on the ballot, Hart even became an Allstar (his second appearance) after finishing third in players' votes. NL manager Charlie Manuel then made Hart his starting right fielder when Atlanta's Jason Heyward could not compete due to injury.
Hart participated in the Home Run Derby and hit 13 home runs, more than any other player in the first round. Unfortunately he lost his timing in the second round after sitting on the sidelines for an extended period of time between rounds. He failed to move on to the final round but finished a respectable third, despite not hitting any dingers in the second round.
Hart continued to perform well in the second half of the season, even while trade rumors constantly swirled around him. He slumped slightly in August after dealing with an injury in late July but he finished the season strongly, batting .295 in September and October, including a 16-game hitting streak in September. He finished the season with a .283 average (his best since 2007) and set career highs for home runs (31) and RBIs (102), joining Casey McGehee and Ryan Braun as Brewers who broke 100 RBI in 2010. In the process, the Brewers granted Hart a three year contract extension that will pay him $25.5 million and keep him in Milwaukee through the 2013 season.
Brewers fans expect Hart to build on his 2010 breakout season. Hart knows all too well what happens when they think a player does not meet the performance expectations of multi-million dollar contracts (Bill Hall, Jeff Suppan). He likely will not set career highs in HR and RBI again in 2011, but hopefully he will come close to matching his 2010 performance. If he fails to meet expectations, we can take solace in the fact that his is a 3-year extension (and really only 2 since the club already controlled his rights through 2011), as opposed to the 4 years given to Hall and Suppan.