Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hafner: The More You Look the More You Like

The most common observation about Cleveland's Travis Hafner is the valuation of the lefty slugger's ability to hit lefthanded pitchers as well as the righties, leading to a projected top ranking among big league designated hitters. Fine. But with Hafner's proven eye at the plate, his commonly forecast 30-35 homer homerun threshold may be a bit underestimated. Consider this: though Hafner has averaged only 25 homers over the past three years and hit only 33 last year, the '05 total would have been higher had a pitch not hit him in the face in July and caused him to miss two weeks due to injury. He then missed more time when he was held out of the lineup occasionally while coaches worked to stop him from shying away from the plate, a hesitation which caused a further reduction in Hafner's potential productivity. But by the last month of the season, Hafner was hitting homers again at a Babe Ruth like pace of one homer every 10 AB, a clear indication that the beaning did not stay with him and that Hafner should potentially reach the 40-50 homer plateau.