Just as it is with streaks and blowouts, it's easy to overreact to a Big Night. Fans hate when players they think are bad for the team have one, for fear that it might lock them into the starting lineup. Case in point, you'll never believe what this weird straw man I work with just said: "Gookie Dawkins is slugging .500 for Charlotte? He'll be Brian Gordon'd soon, so pen him into the #2 spot in the Reds lineup." That guy is a very baseball literate moron. The same voice that tempers this overreaction should also be heeded after Big Nights from players we'd actually like to see get some more playing time.
To put Heisey's 3 home run night into some perspective, consider that the HRs were hit at Great American Ball Park - two off Brian Gordon and one of Hector Noesi. And while a 3 HR game is rarefied space, it's a feat that's been accomplished since 2008 by such maligned former and current Reds as Edwin Encarnacion and Jonny Gomes (the very man Heisey is supposed to replace) in addition to, bizarrely, Jose Lopez. Still, a 3 HR night against the Yankees is not easily dismissed. At the very least, a monster performance against a Name Brand team could represent a turning point for Heisey in his starting struggles. After Wednesday night, Heisey's 2011 OPS in a starting role (in which he's only had 93 PAs) reached .740.
If Heisey is pressing his case to get the majority of playing time in LF, he'll need to be compared against the alternatives. Given what's likely to be available on the trade market from here to July 31, it's probably going to remain an team of LF rivals in the Reds orgnization. Heisey's immediate competition is Jonny Gomes and Fred Lewis, both of whom have been getting well at the plate lately. In the minors, Frazier, Sappelt and Alonso continue to hit, but I would put the latter two currently out of the conversation for reasons, respectively, of not being on the 40-man and not being acceptable defensively.
Here's a side-by-side comparison of the four this season:
The three-headed mon-star:
UZR/150 is measured in LF since beginning of career to get the biggest sample possible, but it probably creates small sample noise with Heisey. Gomes, meanwhile, has gotten at least a little better than his career numbers suggst.
|Chris Heisey (144 PAs)
|Fred Lewis (94 PAs)
|Jonny Gomes (207 PAs)
|TZ Fielding Runs
|Todd Frazier (259 PAs - AAA)
|6 (174 G)
Heisey can stake his claim on the following:
- While he's not tops in every category, he's probably the best all-around option, as suggested by his impressive wOBA and wRC+ marks. He offers emerging on-base skills, power, defense and good base-running, while being the youngest of the group. The upside alone could push him over the top.
- He's flipped his minor league splits since he reached the majors, hitting RHPs to the tune of .297/.360/.514. If this is close to being real, he makes a good case for taking most starts against righties, if not jumping to the conclusion that he's evened out and could handle the full-time job.
- While he may not be the base-stealing threat Fred Lewis is, he's a good base-runner with decent speed who can be placed anywhere in the lineup without much reservation
Is this enough to grant him 60-70% of starts the rest of the way?