== Good to the Bone? ==
Knee bone connected to the …
Yes, it’s possible that two (healthy) knees = one Bone.
The knees in question, of course, belong to Corey Hart, who signed the proverbial “one-year, incentive-laden” deal with the Mariners in December.
And the Bone in question is a major missing piece of the last decade or more of Mariner offenses: a bona fide right-handed basher (yes, OK, there were a couple of seasons of Richie Sexson in there, but, as is good practice, we try to apply selective amnesia to the Bavasi years).
First things first. Is Healthy-Knee Hart that guy?
Let’s go to the “ratio analysis,” where I look at the percentage of the five major “plate outcomes” as a percentage of plate appearances (S% is singles per plate appearance):
|Hart, 2010-12 only||4.9%||10.8%||14.4%||22.7%||7.8%|
It turns out that Bone and Big Sexy actually had quite similar careers, with their lifetime OPS within a point of each other (Buhner: .852; Sexson: .851). Bone was better at drawing walks, but Sexson smashed big flies at a slightly higher rate to make up for it.
Both fit right into the “modern slugger” profile: well over 20% K-rate, but compensating with 4+% HR-rate and 10+% BB-rate.
Hart’s profile is slightly different; although, when you break out 2010-12, you can seem him moving in that direction.
Despite the physical similarities (Hart is 6-foot-6, 235), Healthy-Knee Hart brought a speed game to the table that his fellow tall righties didn’t: a pair of 20-20 seasons (20+ HR and steals), 9 triples in 2007, 45 doubles in 2008, and a career batting average on balls-in-play (BABIP) well over .300 (.313 vs. .293 for Sexson and .287 for Buhner).
That enabled Hart to make up for his lower walk rate with more non-HR base hits. From 2010 to 2012, Hart found his power stroke, and had enough of his speed game left to be a comparable player to Buhner and Sexson (average of 29 HR and .857 OPS for those three years). But he needed those extra singles and doubles to make up for his lower walk rate.
Then, the knees.
Hart had cartilage damage in the right knee, and while rehabbing from the surgery, damaged the left knee as well, and had to have surgery again. So he ended up missing the entire 2013 season.
It looks as if the knee damage didn’t detract from his ability to deliver the long ball, as this video from late 2012 indicates (note the Kirk Gibson reference from the announcer):
But, as we noted, Hart’s game also depends on singles and doubles, and those were premised, at least in part, in his ability to bring more speed than your typical slugger. Will we see a drop-off in those categories?
Obviously, we don’t know yet. All we have so far is this video, which was making the rounds:
We do know this: the difference between Healthy-Knee Hart and the typical big basher was that Hart walked less, but compensated by reaching base on more batted balls.
If the knees prevent Hart from bringing his extra singles and doubles to the table, then he will be more of an “average” player. Historically, he hasn’t walked enough to be the kind of “slugger who walks” who can compensate for a high K-rate.
That being said, it’s possible that Hart will figure out how to increase his walk rate if it becomes clear that his speed has been affected.
Of course, the knees will affect where Hart can play on defense as well. The M’s seems to have him slotted as primary DH (with Justin Smoak at first and Logan Morrison in the OF), but the added flexibility of playing Hart in right could make a big difference.
A right-handed bashing right fielder? That, certainly, has not been seen in Seattle since Bone.