Hart and Hardy: Hot to Cold
Two of the Milwaukee Brewers hottest hitters during the exhibition season were outfielder Corey Hart and shortstop JJ Hardy. Most of those stats were accumulated in games with Hardy hitting second in the batting order and Hart batting fifth. Just prior to the conclusion of spring training, manager Ken Macha decided to switch the players in the order, ostensibly to take advantage of Hart’s speed at the top of the order while having Hardy provide ‘protection’ in the lineup behind cleanup hitter Prince Fielder.
Unfortunately for the Brewers, both players have struggled at the plate since the switch was made. The current situation with Hardy and Hart is reminiscent of last season when former manager Ned Yost decided to switch Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder between the third and fourth spots in the batting order. Then, as now, both players seemed to founder in their new positions and didn’t really regain their form, if indeed they ever really did, until they were restored to their original roles.
Obviously spring training batting averages are often inflated, notably because opposing pitchers are more concerned with working on various aspects of their games; building up their arms in preparation for the season with less focus on results. Hitters, on the other hand, are often more relaxed at the plate knowing that the games don’t really count anyway. So it’s entirely possible that this simply reflects the difference in the level of competition between exhibition and regular season games. Both Hardy and Hart might still be struggling regardless of where in the order they hit. Still, since so much of performance in any sport at any level is based on self confidence, it makes me wonder why managers sometimes feel compelled to tinker with what appears to be working. It may have been better for the Brewers and the players involved if Macha had left well enough alone.