Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gregg Zaun: The Victim of Irrationality

As is normally par for course, sports fans are very quick to judge.

If a basketball player knocks down his first three pointer in the league, he's an assassin. If a field goal kicker shanks his first kick, he is terrible. There is an example for every sport, so I'll just stop there.

In my 21 years in this great city, I have realized this is taken to the next level. I was there when Prince Fielder was booed after starting the 2006 season 0 for 11 with seven strikeouts. Sure Lyle Overbay was a big fan favorite, but there was no sense in that. Then of course, there was Brad Nelson. Nelson went 0 for 21 in 2009. He hit the ball relatively hard, but never really caught any breaks. I heard so many fans say Brad Nelson was the worst player ever. Sure not getting a hit in his tenure didn't help, but that statement is completely false. He had a tough run and it cost him his job. He was DFA'd by the Brewers and currently in is the Seattle Mariners organization.

That 0-21 streak stood until this season when Gregg Zaun had a similar start. In fact, they were way too similar. Zaun went 0 for his first 21 also. He hit the ball hard like Nelson. He, also, became the whipping boy of Brewers' nation.

If I had a $1 for every time I heard how bad Gregg Zaun was in the first two weeks, I might be able to help the Brewers resign Prince Fielder. It was an absolute joke. Of course, to make things worse, Jason Kendall recorded a hit in his first 14 games as a Royal. This brought in the "why did we get rid of Kendall for this bum" comments. The Brewers got rid of Jason Kendall because he wanted too much money and frankly, wasn't any good. The last time I checked, team success wasn't measured in terms of "grittiness," if that makes sense.

So what has Zaun done since that 0-21 start? Absolutely rake.

Entering Sunday, Zaun's was hitting .272/.346/.402/.748. That's in just 92 at bats for the season. It's so hard to raise your batting average in that short of a span following a prolonged slump. In those 71 post slump AB's, Zaun had 25 hits. He also had seven extra base hits (2 HRs) and drove in 13 runs. He walked eight times. Those are incredible numbers for any player, but even more impressive from a catcher.

Kendall has done nothing, but resort back to his old form. Since his 14 game hitting streak, he is 17-72 (.236). He has just four extra base hits (all doubles). He is nowhere near the offensive threat Gregg Zaun is and is not a better defender.

The upgrade from Kendall to Zaun is huge. Zaun is showing his original doubters he still can play baseball. It's nice to know the Brewers have a backstop who has some offensive production. The combination of Zaun and George Kottaras has some potential to be one of the better catching duos in baseball in terms of offensive production. Good backstops in baseball are few and far between. Fans need to realize that before calling for someone's head 21 at bats into a season. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Fans should realize that the next time they are caught in the heat of the moment.

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