Quantcast

Bryan LaHair’s offensive production this year has surpassed even the most optimistic projections of even the most optimistic of Chicago Cubs fans.

Through 103 plate appearances, he’s got 8 homers, 9 doubles, 18 RBI, and 16 walks. He’s hitting .384/.476/.767, and his OBP is best in baseball. His 1.243 OPS trails only Josh Hamilton and Matt Kemp. He has already accumulated 1.9 WAR (he’s on pace for a 9.6 WAR, which has been bested in the last 12 years only by Bonds, Pujols, Sosa, Rodriguez, and Beltre). His 2.45 Win Probability Added (a measure of just how valuable a player has been to his team) is the best in baseball.

Bryan LaHair is good.

Then again, through those mere 103 plate appearances, LaHair has struck out 30 times. When he’s hit a fly ball, it’s had a 36.4% chance of leaving the ballpark. And the BABIP. Oh, the BABIP. LaHair’s batting average on balls in play is an unbelievable .510. He’s doing all of this at the age of 29, when he’s not done anything remotely close to it in the big leagues before.

Bryan LaHair is lucky.

But which is it? Is he actually good – elite, even – or is he just enjoying one of the luckiest stretches in recent baseball memory?

I think you already know that the answer is a little bit of both. The more interesting follow-up question, of course, is … can he keep doing this?

No one can tell you for sure, but there are more reasons to believe that he’ll keep hitting well (even if not this well) than reasons to believe he’ll fall flat on his face at any minute. I’ll give you five to chew on.

First: Bryan LaHair’s Career Minor League BABIP is .347

The biggest luck dart thrown at LaHair this year is that absurd .510 BABIP. For those who don’t know, the figure is a reflection of a player’s batting average solely on balls that are put into play for a defender to field. Prevailing wisdom says that BABIPs are generally static for players (and also generally stay within a range of about .290 to .310), so if you see a wild swing in one direction or the other, it’s probably just a matter of some lucky hits (or, in Ian Stewart’s case, “at-em” balls). When that luck evens out, the BABIP comes down, and production regresses (particularly for guys who strike out a lot).

Here’s the thing on LaHair’s BABIP: it’s always been extremely high. Throughout his minor league career – over 4000 plate appearances – his BABIP remained high. In total, it was a lofty .347. So, while it is likely that his current .510 number will come down, it could stay elevated enough to see LaHair sport a .300+ batting average (which, in turn, drives an elevated OBP and SLG). As he cuts down on the strikeouts, which he has been doing over the past two weeks, that drop in the BABIP will be less noticeable, in terms of the overall results.

Second: Bryan LaHair Sees a Whole Lot of Pitches

Presently, LaHair sees 4.18 pitches per plate appearance, 13th best in all of baseball. Seeing a lot of pitches, alone, has value (drives up opposing pitch counts, allows you and teammates to see variety of pitches, etc.), but why is it indicative of LaHair’s success being legit and sustainable? Well, it suggests that he’s become increasingly comfortable hitting deep into counts, including those with two strikes. The more pitches you see, the better adjusted you will be when you get a pitch to drive. But, that’s easier said than done for a number of hitters, who are uncomfortable hitting with two strikes. Even the best hitters aren’t going to set the world on fire in an 0-2 count, but they will be able to battle back, see a few more pitches, and give the opposing pitcher a chance to make a mistake. LaHair’s deep counts suggest he’s comfortable hitting in any situation, and that’s a sign of a hitter whose success is probably a bit more skill than it is sheer luck. He’s not just feasting on first-pitch fastballs.

Third: Bryan LaHair Looks Like a Polished Hitter

I’m no scout, and you probably aren’t either. I imagine I could probably look at two hitters and think I was seeing the same thing twice, only to have a professional scout explain that one guy was about to flop, while the other was a future star. That could be the case with LaHair, so forgive my indulgence.

But the dude just looks like a great hitter. He looks relaxed, he rarely swings at bad pitches, he almost never looks fooled, he covers the plate incredibly well, and he drives mistakes. It’s an incredibly small sample size, but he looks more comfortable and confident up there than guys with five years of big league experience. Maybe the results are retroactively driving my thoughts, but when I watch him bat, I see a very good hitter.

Fourth: Bryan LaHair Works with What He’s Given

A hitter’s ability to “go with a pitch” is the sign of a mature bat, and usually one with considerable staying power. We’ve all seen with our eyes LaHair’s willingness, for example, to take an outside pitch the other way, but does the data back up our eye?

Absolutely.

Here’s a spray chart for LaHair this year, courtesy of Texas Leaguers. As you can see, although he grounds out a fair bit to the right side, he hits the ball almost equally to all parts of the park:

Moreover, LaHair has clearly already developed an ability to hit balls on the outer half with authority. Today, Mark Simon at ESPN took a look at what Bryan LaHair is doing with outside pitches lately, and, in short, LaHair is driving them. Perhaps more impressively, that wasn’t the cast in the first few weeks of the season, when LaHair put only 10 of his first 58 pitches (at which he swung) on the outer third in play. That’s not too good. But, of late, in his last 33 such swings, he’s put 16 balls in play (10 for hits). In other words, it appears that LaHair is adjusting.

Five: Bryan LaHair Survives the Mathematical Joojoo of a “Regression” Analysis

FanGraphs today analyzed (today is analyze Bryan LaHair day, apparently) what Bryan LaHair’s production would look like if a number of “regressions” occurred – what if his BABIP falls back to its expected value? What if his HR/PA regresses? What if his BB% regresses?

After analyzing each of those possibilities, and then analyzing the catastrophe that would be all of them regressing at once, LaHair’s projected production is *still* quite a bit better than the league average first baseman (projected .363 wOBA versus .337 league average). In other words, even if the mirage fades, there’s still going to be a pretty good hitter behind the ether.

So, in the end, is Bryan LaHair good, or just lucky? As I said, it’s a little of both. But it’s fair to start thinking it’s probably more of the former.

  • mjhurdle

    Great article with some great info. Thanks for putting this together Brett.

    Also, for a little fun, go to the comment sections on the Related Articles for ‘Lahair is a Cub’ and ‘Japanese Teams Starting to Sniff Around LaHair’.

    Of course you have to realize that hind-sight is 20-20, so it should all be taken in the appropriate way, but seeing comments like:

    “You’re not going to get two Murton’s for a LaHair. One and a half Murton’s tops.”

    and

    “now that MacPhail is gone from Baltimore, Tony Campana is no longer a future-Oriole but more likely a future Seibu Lion.”

    is worth a good chuckle or two.

    It is amazing what half a year can do.

    • ty

      mj–just going through archives and noting what several daily bn commentators were saying about LaHair. Triple AAAA was constant theme by 3 of our friends. A signed ball if anybody can guess names by number of comments.

      • Kyle

        I’m going to assume I had the most anti-LaHair comments. If not, I wasn’t trying hard enough.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          I don’t know…. you spent an awful lot of time picking on Stewart too.  If you concentrated on one I know you’d be the champ, but splitting your focus might hurt you a bit in the standings.

        • MaxM1908

          Don’t forget Joe Mather too! He hasn’t had the ABs to prove you wrong yet.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Triple AAAA? Holy smokes, that’s a lot of A’s!

  • ty

    Kyle–Profile of courage!

  • Pingback: Bryan LaHair: Lucky or Good? | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs … | Baseball News Report()

  • drew

    They will both be in the lineup either way, so in this case, this is my thought process:

    You have to fill LF/RF and 1B with 2 big, lumbering first-basemen, 1 of whom has GG potential at 1st and one who is below average (id have to think both would be considerably below average in the OF).

    Rizzo has never played the OF, LaHair has.

    With a rough cup-of-coffee last year, Rizzo will be put in the absolute best situation possible to produce when he gets to Chicago, and leaving him where he is comfortable defensively will be one thing that will help them do that.

  • http://bleachernation.com lou brock lives

    It is important for LaHair to continue to drive the ball to left center. All the previous left handed power hitters who have had some success at Wrigley over the years have been able to drive the ball to the opposite field. Billy Williams, Rick Monday, Rick Wilkins were all able to go the other way when pitched away.
    Guys like Birnitz & Carlos Pena tried to pull everything. Hopefully when Rizzo & Jackson come up LaHair can demonstrate to them how it should be done.
    Soriano is done – the bat looks heavier than ever to him. He has no lift to carry the ball out.

  • FromFenwayPahk

    Wistah!

  • Tim

    Not very relevant, but somebody on espn just mentioned a potential bad contract for bad contract trade sometime this summer with the Red Sox. Soriano for Josh Beckett, comments?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Given that the swap would save the Cubs $6+ million, I’d gladly do it. I don’t really see it, though.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      That sounds laughable.
      This Beckett garbage is blown so out of proportion. He was fine in 2003 and 2007 when he helped lead them to World Series, but now that they are struggling, the media and fans need to point a finger.

      • hansman1982

        agree, if I were a free agent heading into the offseason, the Sox would need to pay me an extra $5M a year (at least) to head into the insane asylum.

      • Smitty

        That was Buster Olney who made the comment. He was saying that Beckett’s contract is immovable based on amount and his performance the past few years. He was just saying that the only way he saw the Red Sox being able to unload Beckett is if they took on a bad contract themselves, ie. Soriano for Beckett.

  • FromFenwayPahk

    “A hitter’s ability to ‘go with a pitch’ is the sign of a mature bat…”

    I am starting to think of LaHair as two hitters. When the pitch is inside, he’s Jim Rice. When it’s outside he becomes (a very strong) Wade Boggs.

  • ty

    Feature article on Bryan LaHair with 110 positive responses. What a difference an opportunity makes!

  • / how to check inbound links

    I spammed.

    • TC

      SPAMSPAMSPAMSPAM

  • private health care insurance

    Hi would you mind letting me know which hosting
    company you’re working with? I’ve loaded your blog in 3 different
    web browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot faster then most.
    Can you recommend a good web hosting provider at a fair price?
    Thanks, I appreciate it!

    • Whiteflag

      I’m not Brett, but he uses Dreamhost. Also if you click cubs resources and scroll all the way down there is a “so you are thinking of starting a blog” link. That might have some of the information you are looking for.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        That was exceedingly kind of you to answer, though I am compelled to point out that the person was just a spammer …

  • vpn router

    Thanks for the good writeup. It if truth be told used to be a leisure
    account it. Glance advanced to far delivered agreeable
    from you! However, how can we communicate?

    • Spriggs

      Exactly!

      • Cubbie Blues

        hahahahaLArF. Spam is sometimes funny.

  • http://www.fiql.com/members/guidehot05 fiql.com

    Hey there! This is kind of off topic but I need
    some help from an established blog. Is it tough to set up your own blog?
    I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m
    thinking about creating my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Thank you

    • Cubbie Blues

      Well, it looks like you already found a name and at least one way to spam. Looks like you’re on your way.

  • sunan-ampel.ac.id

    Whether agents sell insurance for a single company or multiple providers, you can call them to receive a free rate
    quote over the phone. * fear of public institutions (based on experiences
    with discrimination),. • Do you have any family problems that may be inherited such as
    needing glasses, contact lenses, arthritis etc.

    • hansman1982

      Wait, so there is a one-stop shop where I can get a free rate quote for insurance over the phone, discuss my fear of public institutions AND have someone ask me about medical conditions that have been proven to be linked to each other?

      SIGN.ME.UP!

      • DarthHater

        I hear they sell good hamburgers, too.

        • hansman1982

          So what you are saying is if you combined Shangri La, Heaven and the troughs at Wrigley, you would come up with that website?

          • Hansman1982

            What the hell is it about this thread that attracts dumbass spammers?

            • MichiganGoat

              its the new aaron miles thread

    • Jp3

      Wait if you spammers are here, who’s running hell?

  • Callie

    Because basic health insurance provided by the Canadian government is limited, you may want to
    include supplemental coverage in the health insurance policy you are considering i.
    Current medical conditions and past medical history
    can impact rates. Acquiring health insurance
    quotes is the best way of finding the best possible packages around.

  • Emile

    Consider, also, just how important the new easy-to-swallow products are to your
    comfort. Scott has already signed two bills, HB 1473 and HB 1125, which will help with the implementation of the program.
    The questions asked during the interviews decide on the premiums.

    • Jp3

      Get off our lawn!!!!

  • http://pethomeshop.com/home insurance health

    s not available to residents of Western Australia,
    Tasmania or Queensland. Your maximum out of pocket provision
    will apply to a 12 month’s worth of costs. During every claim, you will have to share a cost and you must know this value with respect to a given policy.

  • http://www.phpfox.com/profile-294335/ Bridget

    You must then approach IRDA to get justice if the other means have all failed.

    I’m eternally and everlastingly grateful to them for their outstanding treatment and care. If you or a loved one is a victim of this health insurance scam, to find out information about your refund, visit If you have questions and would like to call directly, you can reach Gilardi & Co.

Bleacher Nation Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Bleacher Nation is a private media site, and it is not affiliated in any way with Major League Baseball or the Chicago Cubs. Neither MLB nor the Chicago Cubs have endorsed, supported, directed, or participated in the creation of the content at this site, or in the creation of the site itself. It's just a media site that happens to cover the Chicago Cubs.

Bleacher Nation is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Google+