this has been a hot topic of interest lately. will Michael Brantley have a significant drop in production in 2015? of course i say no, but not everyone out there in the baseball world agrees with me.
i was inspired to write this blog partially in thanks to the ESPN blog that came out today ranking the top 6 baseball teams going into spring training, which i'm NOT going to link here because i dislike all things ESPN with a passion and am not going to promote them. my motivation also came from the fact that several other media members have been saying how Michael is going to regress in 2015 and won't put together the same type of season as the one he just had in 2014. now it's time for me to speak out with my rebuttal. get ready, cause i'm about to go hard for my boy lol ;D
i'm tired of hearing how prior to 2014, Michael was "just" a .277 hitter. let's go back in time and really break down Michael's averages per season since he's been in the major leagues, shall we?
2009: .313 BA, 28 games
Michael's big league debut came on September 1, 2009. he only played in 28 games, but he looked like a pro who belonged. it was clear then--at least to me--that he was going to be a valuable player for the Tribe for years to come.
2010: .246 BA, 72 games
this was Michael's toughest and roughest season in the bigs. he was still a rookie player trying to find his way and was sent down to Columbus 3 different times. by the time he was brought up to stay for good, he fixed whatever issues he was having at the plate and played much better. in total, he only played 78 games with the Indians. every player gets a pass when he's going through his rookie season and trying to get acclimated to new pitchers and new settings, so this is just not a batting average that i can take seriously. unfortunately, it's still one that gets factored into his career average.
2011: .266 BA, 114 games
this is the season that a lot of people will harp on when discussing Michael's career stats. no longer a rookie player, why did he only bat .266 in 114 games? well let me tell you. Michael played with an injury in July and August. he wanted to try and help the team so much that he played through the pain. sadly, he wasn't doing much good during that time, hence the fact that his batting average began to drop before the Indians finally decided to shut him down for good. he had surgery for his broken hamate bone on August 31. in his final 19 games, he bat .195. that's not Michael. anyone who believes that Michael was really a .266 hitter for the 2011 season just doesn't know all the facts. i deduced that had Michael been shut down as soon as the hamate became a real issue, he would have finished batting .281 (which would have been the highest on the team, btw). that's more like it. you can read this blog for further details about his 2011 season.
2012: .288 BA, 149 games
this was Michael's first full season in the major leagues and he didn't disappoint. this was the year that we finally got to see Michael reaching his potential and becoming more like the player some of us always knew he would be. his .288 batting average was the highest on the team. he even played a handful of games in September/October with a groin injury, which turned out to be a sports hernia. the boy does not quit. there should be no complaints about his 2012 season. (my 2012 wrap up blog can be found here.)
2013: .284 BA, 151 games
another full season for Michael, and this time he wasn't stricken with any serious health problems. once again, his batting average was the highest on the team. he also bat .375 with runners in scoring position, 3rd best in the American League. Michael set several career highs in 2013 and even got a hit in his very first postseason game. (my 2013 wrap up blog can be found here.)
2014: .327 BA, 156 games
this was Michael's best all around season in the majors by far up to this point. for the 3rd year in a row, Michael led the team with his batting average. he led the team in just about every other significant category as well, minus triples and home runs. he also had the highest batting average in the AL with RISP--.376. he set a plethora of career highs, achieved several career firsts, and added a couple franchise records to the Indians record books. hence, the ASSumption that Michael will be incapable of replicating a performance of this scale next season. (my 2014 wrap up blog can be found here.)
now that i've explained the specifics of Michael's batting averages per year, i can get to my next BIG point as to why Michael's 2014 season was not a fluke.
Michael changed his approach at the plate going into 2014. he was more aggressive and willing to swing at more first pitches without regret. Michael's father, Mickey, had been encouraging Michael to do this for a few years, but he had been reluctant. you see, Michael came up in our system as a leadoff man. and he did bat leadoff for the Indians for a bit early on in his career. that's what he was groomed to be, that's what he was used to. even after he began to be moved around in the lineup, he continued to approach at bats with his same leadoff hitter mentality. he would be patient, waiting for the perfect pitch, and try to have long at bats that would at least result in a walk so he could get on base for the team. the problem with that was a hitter can't always employ that approach when he's batting 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, or wherever else the manager(s) wanted to put him. so how ever Mickey finally convinced Michael to make this modification to his game, i am thankful.
Michael's new strategy worked quite well for him. he jumped on a lot of good pitches early in the count and the overall outcome was positive. Michael bat .404 with 40 hits when he swung at and made contact with the first pitch of an at bat last season.
if Michael stays with this aggressive approach when he plays in 2015, which i'm sure he will, then why do people not only think that Michael's 2014 MVP-3 season "came out of nowhere," but also question if he can have another standout season and put up numbers similar to those from 2014? it's not like Michael is all the sudden going to revert back to his old leadoff mentality and quit trying to swing at good pitches early in the count, the very thing that gave him much success in 2014.
do i think Michael will bat .327 again in 2015? probably not. but i think he can still bat over .300 and have another year with around 20 homers and 90 something RBI. so what if his 2015 batting average isn't the 3rd highest in the league this year? and so what if he doesn't set as many records? that isn't what matters. Michael's been the most consistent and most clutch hitter on the team for the last 3 years and i believe that will remain true in the upcoming season. to think he will regress so much that he won't be productive is preposterous. to think he is incapable of sustaining his newfound power and hitting around 20 home runs again is unfeasible. and you know what else? if Michael's numbers happen to dip a little bit this year due to some of his other teammates picking up the slack and bearing their portion of the heavy baseball load, that wouldn't exactly be the worst thing.
(FYI--as per usual, i will be posting my complete Brantley 2015 predictions once spring training is complete.)
so if all that doesn't convince you that Michael is not a "one year wonder," well, then i'm afraid there's not much more i can do. we'll just have to wait and see how 2015 plays out.
and here's a helpful hint to any writers/bloggers out there who are going to continue arguing that Michael's performance will decrease in 2015. when giving your viewpoint on Michael's 2015 season, please at least get Michael's 2014 statistics correct. because if you don't, then Michael's #1 fan is gonna call you out on it lol =P