Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Granted, I am not much on statistics. WHIP, OPS, etc--its just not my thing (yeah, I know, I've stated that before, but this is to make a point). Others like stats and that's fine. I have always judged players abilities on what I see first hand, everyday. And, more importantly, how talent performs when the game's on the line. So much so--a .240 hitter can be more productive--by knocking home runs in the clutch. Something, say--a .300 slap hitter is not doing. Ryan Zimmerman may well throw away some silly errors from third base--but I would take his fielding prowess over ANYBODY in The National League.
Having stated that, all season long, Austin Kearns has struggled at the plate. Opposing pitchers have jammed him all season long--to great results. Hot of late, but still not driving in runners consistently--Our Number 25 is looking to free up his hands on inside pitches. Work, which Interim Batting Coach Lenny Harris has instructed Kearns on for the past few months. Hopefully, an effort that will propel him to the expected 30 Home Run, 100 RBI Hitter Our General Manager Jim Bowden has always envisioned--one day.
But, despite his continuing struggles at the plate--Austin's play in right field has been nothing short of spectacular. Two excellent catches by him come to mind this season. The first one in St. Louis. A diving catch of a Jim Edmonds Drive on the warning track--face first into the wall. A excellent play that also found Kearns immediately jumping up and firing the baseball to first base to double off The Cardinals Scott Rolen. The Second--just the other day in Denver--when Austin face planted himself into the fence at Coors Field on a drive by The Rockies Brad Hawpe.
Those are the memorable ones--yet has anyone noticed just how excellent Austin Kearns has played right field this season at RFK Stadium? Quickly, he moves to the right angles to cut off smashed hit, either down the line or into the gap. His throwing arm is quite accurate. Outside of the always injured Alex Escobar--the finest on Our Team of Outfielders.
Many times this season, I have witnessed "Bluegrass" move deftly into the right corner at RFK, thinking he had NO CHANCE of throwing out a runner or even making a play. Yet, Kearns always gets the toss to the base. Many times on time, and on target.
Like I said--I am not much of a stats guy--but I took a glance to see how well Austin has fielded in 2007. 8 Outfield Assists, 3 Double Plays, just 1 error in 322 total chances. A .997 fielding average. Pretty Good Stuff.
Having seen most every rightfielder in the game personally in 2007, only Jeff Francouer of The Atlanta Braves can possibly rival Kearns for the Top Honor of Gold Glove this season in The National League. Their Number 7 is a fine outfielder, and daring. Knack which Austin has shown throughout this campaign. In slightly less chances (293)--Jeff has three errors. But, a whopping 18 Outfield Assists for his GOLDEN ARM. Twice at RFK Stadium over the past two plus seasons of Nationals Baseball, Francouer has walloped himself into the right field fence--to take away two sure home runs. Including a memorable catch off the bat of Cristian Guzman in 2005. An effort that knocked down a green panel in the right field wall (for my money--one of the BEST CATCHES since the return of baseball to DC).
Now, I am not sure if Austin Kearns is more deserving than Jeff Francouer for a Gold Glove. But, if Our Number 25 could turn his game around at the plate--he would be an excellent all around player. His fielding has changed my perspective of his play. Really, he could be A GEM--A Cornerstone Player for Our Washington Nationals.
A level he has not yet reached. But hopefully, with a little more work-- very soon. That, and the return of a healthy Nick Johnson to Our Nationals Starting Lineup--for his mental makeup.