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« Fister Fans a Baker's Dozen | Main | Lincecum's Ups and Downs »
Tuesday
Sep062011

Walkoff Continues Lawrie's Scorching Start

Brett Lawrie can do no wrong. The Langley, B.C., native, selected 16th overall in the 2008 draft by the Brewers and traded to Toronto for Shaun Marcum last winter, has pummeled pitchers for a .318 average, a .381 OBP and a .682 slugging percentage since making his MLB debut in early August. Yesterday, he ripped a Dan Wheeler fastball 423 feet into the Rogers Centre stands in the 11th inning, giving the Jays a 1-0 walkoff win over the Red Sox.

Wheeler's fastball was high and down the middle -- a mistake no matter who's at the plate. Lawrie has taken full advantage when pitchers catch too much of the plate against him. Take a look at the location of his eight big league home runs. Seven of them have been on pitches thrown in the middle part of the zone (vertically):

Location of Lawrie's home runs, 2011

It's awfully rare to find a rookie who rakes from the get-go like Lawrie has (his OPS+ is 180), but doing so is no guarantee of future stardom. According to Baseball-Reference, the last time a hitter blasted pitchers like this over his first 100-some odd plate appearances was 2005, when Mike Jacobs put up a 179 OPS+ in 112 PA. Bill Sudakis (1968) and Chris Dickerson (2008) did slightly less damage in a similar number of PA. When the sample size increases, however, you start seeing names like Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas, Johnny Mize, Ted Williams and Albert Pujols with OPS+ totals ranging from the high 150s to the high 170s.

In other words, going Roy Hobbs on the league for a month doesn't necessarily tell us much, but sustained rookie mashing does. Given Lawrie's age (he doesn't turn 22 until January) and minor league track record, there's good reason to believe he's on a path to stardom. Just don't make your Cooperstown reservations yet.

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