Monday, June 14, 2010

Casey McGehee: Back to Reality?

Looking at the 2009 Milwaukee Brewers, one would have to be excited with the production of Casey McGehee.

After almost being cut prior to the season, McGehee went onto to post a .301/.360/.499/.859 line in 355 at bats. Even more impressive about that line was it came out of nowhere. McGehee's highest OPS in his pro career prior to 2009 was .776, and that was during the 2007 season while playing for AA West Tennessee.

There is no question McGehee's 2009 excited many fans, including myself, but many were also skeptical. How could Casey McGehee go from an average minor league hitter into an elite major league hitter in one season? That doesn't happen too often, so many predicted a regression from McGehee in 2010.

McGehee made skeptics look silly at the beginning of the year.

On May 20th, McGehee went 1-3 with two runs and a walk in a 4-3 Brewers victory over the Pittburgh Pirates. The win snapped a nine game losing streak for the Brewers. At the time McGehee had racked up 151 at bats. During that span, he posted a .325/.395/.570/.965 line.

Then, just as fast as McGehee had risen, he fell off. McGehee finished the month of May in pretty bad fashion. Here is his line over the final 11 days in May.

Batting Average: .214 (9-42)
On Base Percentage: .233 (one walk)
Slugging Percentage: .309 (4 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR)
OPS: .542

That was not the finish to May fans were looking for, but it was just 42 at bats. Anyone can have a bad 42 at bats. What has occurred thus far in June has been a big red flag.

Batting Average: .159 (7-44)
On Base Percentage: .191 (two walks)
Slugging Percentage: .273 (2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR)
OPS: .464

Over the last 22 games, McGehee is batting just .186. He has drawn just three walks, while striking out 19 times. He has only seven extra base hits and only homered once. His OPS, which was at .965 on May 20th, has fallen 165 points to an even .800. His walk rate on May 20th was 11.1%. He was striking out 13.6% of the time on that date as well. His walk rate has fallen to 8.8% and his strikeouts have risen to 16.9% after his recent struggle with plate discipline.

There is no doubt in my mind McGehee will not continue to struggle this bad. The main problem for the Brewers is what they are going to do going forward.

Mat Gamel has torn the cover off the ball since returning from his injury. He posted a 1.040 OPS in 28 at bats at AA Huntsville. Since his promotion to AAA Nashville, he has a .872 OPS in 28 at bats. He is knocking on the door to the major leagues.

The worst thing the Brewers could do would be to promote Gamel to the majors and limit his progress on the bench. Many seem to think Gamel is the future first baseman of this team. With that being said, getting him major league at bats needs to be a priority. Where do those at bats come from though? Should the Brewers sit McGehee in favor of Gamel? I thought a perfect chance to call Gamel up would come for the series in LA starting tonight. Even if he was promoted, that would solve little for the time being.

The move the organization seems to be considering is trading Prince Fielder at the deadline. If Fielder is dealt, Gamel could start immediately after the trade at first base. Seeing as it is unlikely Fielder will sign back with the Brewers, this needs to be the focus for now.

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