July 19, 2010

Lastings Milledge's Turnaround

Entering the 2010 season, I was one of many observers who hoped for a breakout season by Lastings Milledge. After arriving via trade, Lastings compiled an unspectacular .291/.333/.395 batting line in the second half of 2009. His defense was quite good, but - more importantly for a player who came to town with a bad reputation for character - he was unquestionably a player who played hard throughout the nightmare final 40 games of that season. This year, he turned 25 on Opening Day and was given a starting job as the Pirates and their fans hoped to see the talent that years ago led a popular Mets blog to feature the header "In Lastings Milledge We Trust."

Two months later, on May 31, Milledge's line was a rather terrible .248/.320/.317. In 46 games, 40 of them starts, our five-tool left fielder compiled zero home runs and a whopping three steals. This start was even worse than the numbers indicate, as he was taking bad routes to balls in the outfield and running the bases with a level of recklessness normally associated with the Milledgeville, Ga., police.

Millege's 2010 looked like a lost season at that point, and truthfully he would have lost his job if not for Ryan Church being even worse. Yet quietly, he has responded by putting up a month and a half of outstanding baseball this summer.

From June 1 onward, Milledge has hit a Dave Parkeresque .337/.396/.525. In 31 games, 27 of them starts, he has 12 extra base hits (three home runs). He has done this despite uneven playing time and a move across the diamond to right field to accomodate the new left fielder Jose Tabata.

Sunday was Lastings's fifth consecutive game scoring a run and his fourth multi-hit game in the last five. Dare I say he is living up to his potential?

There is something to be said for talent. It is easier for a fast runner to learn to be smarter on the basepaths, than for a slow runner who never makes outs to learn speed.

Of course, April and May happened. They can't be discounted. Yet they will become distant memories if Milledge can keep up his star-level performance of the past six weeks for the rest of the season. It is one of the many storylines that will enthrall all of us as the Pirates drive towards their 2010 World Championship.

1 comment:

  1. as the Pirates drive towards their 2010 World Championship??? kinda bitter, arent we? All players not named Pujols go through hard times, but Milledge can play. and NO ONE on the pirates plays harder than Thrilledge. Get over it; hes here to stay.