It doesn’t make sense to panic only 31 at-bats into a regular season. So I suppose it doesn’t make sense to panic 31 at-bats into spring training. But is it too early to be concerned about Nate McLouth?
The Braves were not completely comfortable with McLouth as their leadoff hitter. We suspected that after he hit .256 last season, and it was confirmed when they pursued Johnny Damon in free agency, albeit belatedly. (Damon ultimately signed with Detroit for $8 million.)
I emailed a question to Frank Wren, and his response was completely in line with that of any general manager’s in March: “There really isn’t concern. You only have to look at his career to know that he will get it going. Players have 30 at-bat slumps all the time. It only takes a couple of two-hit games and it’s all forgotten. He’s too good a player to worry about a spring drought.”
I know. It’s spring. We’re not supposed to pay attention to statistics in spring. But it’s also clear McLouth is TRYING to hit, not just work out the kinks. And isn’t it somewhat significant that manager Bobby Cox dropped him to sixth in the order Thursday?
“I’m getting there,” McLouth told our David O’Brien. “It’s frustrating not to get hits, regardless of whether it’s spring training. But I’d rather it happen now than in the season.”
McLouth doesn’t have to be great. But if the Braves don’t have even a competent leadoff hitter this season, they’re in trouble. Are you concerned yet?