Thursday, April 20, 2006

What Happens When Shelton Returns To Earth?

In 1982, an outfielder named Eddie Miller made the Tigers out of spring training. He was one of Sparky Anderson's annual darlings -- those players who would come out of nowhere in Lakeland and captivate the manager, who would in turn try to get the writers as excited about that individual as he was.

Anyhow, Miller had been an outfielder with the Braves, and was in his mid-20's when he broke camp with the Tigers as Sparky's new leadoff hitter.

On Opening Night, Miller singled in his first at-bat. The white-haired genius had struck again, right?


24 hitless at-bats later, Eddie Miller vanished from Detroit Tigers baseball.

Chris Shelton is certainly no Eddie Miller; and Sparky no longer manages here -- another astute observation. But what happens when the hoopla that engulfs Shelton due to his jackrabbit start -- and it will -- starts to fade?

Shelton: A slide a comin'

Shelton will not hit .400 this season. He probably won't hit .375, either. Or maybe not even .350. He is human, after all, and no human has managed the .400 standard since Ted Williams -- 65 years ago. Rod Carew gave it a go in 1977, ending at .388. George Brett made a run in 1980 -- sitting at .400+ as late as September before "slumping" to .390. But other than those two tries, no player has seriously challenged the hallowed .400 mark.

So when Shelton comes back to earth -- and he's already showing signs of that now, if you want the truth -- how will he handle it? How will the media? How will the fans?

Sometimes the tumble down the mountain is more difficult to contend with than the struggle upward.

It says here that we'll find out a lot more about Chris Shelton as his batting average slides than we ever have as a Tiger. He's basically hit the cover off the ball ever since he was brought to Detroit -- stolen, actually from the Pirates organization -- so we'll see what happens when the inevitable slump occurs.

Still, Shelton is probably good for .320, 35 HR and 90-100 RBI. If only others on the team could "slump" and still hit those numbers.

Seeing how "Big Red" handles the adversity of his return to this planet will be an interesting case study in baseball maturity.


Blogger Lee Panas said...

I think he'll handle it ok. He might go through a little slump but I think he's going to be a really good hitter.
The numbers you suggested for him are probably about right.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Ian C. said...

Saying that we'll learn more about Shelton after he suffers through a slump is a dead-on observation, but I think he could still be a damn good hitter when that dust clears.

He just won't be in the upper stratosphere that he currently occupies (Pujols, Hafner... Shelton?!).

11:20 AM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...

You're both right; like I said, I'll take a "slump" to .320, 35/100.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Ozz said...

I also think he'll handle it well. He'll be a little more relieved that he isn't being hounded by interview requests. I think he might have changed his approach somewhat during the hot streak. Maybe he was being a little more aggressive than usual.

Once he gets through a cooling period that will be pretty brief, he'll be the hitter everyone expects him to be, not the slugger that surprised everyone.

3:54 AM  

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