Is Bryan Lahair for real?
After 9 full years in the minor leagues, Bryan Lahair has finally found a home in Chicago. The 29-year-old journeyman has surpassed every expectation I had of him during the first 5 weeks of this young season. Through 28 games, Lahair is hitting .390 with 7 homers, 16 RBIs and a 1.227 OPS. Let me repeat that. BRYAN LAHAIR HAS AN OPS OF 1.227. That’s good for 2nd best in the majors for hitters with at least 70 at-bats behind Matt Kemp, who guaranteed a 50 homer/50 steal season back in March. Quite simply, Lahair has been tearing up major league pitching. Do I deserve to be punched in the face for not drafting him or picking him up in fantasy baseball? Absolutely. But is he for real? My heart tells me yes. But my head tells me ehhhhh, it’s too early to tell.
It’s obvious that Lahair won’t bat .390 all year long. He was a career .295 hitter in the minors, though, so a .300 average certainly isn’t out of the question. In addition to 15 extra base hits, Lahair’s currently batting .355 with 11 RBIs with runners on base and .313 with 9 RBIS with RISP. Although these are really sexy numbers, there are a couple of major red flags.
One problem is that he’s sporting a .548 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), indicating that he’s been getting quite lucky. Eventually, you’d have to think that luck will catch up with him considering the fact that the average MLB BABIP usually hovers around .300 by year’s end.
Another flag happens to be Lahair’s ability to hit lefties. One of the main reasons he spent so much time in the minors is because of his inability to hit south paws. So far this season, he is 2/10 against lefties. However, that’s not much of a sample size, so it’s hard to say if this problem will continue to hinder Lahair’s performance and, ultimately, his playing time. When a lefty has pitched against the Cubs this year, Dale Sveum has chosen to go with Jeff Baker at first base more often than not. I find this to be terrible management. The only way for Lahair to improve is to get more repetition. If you want to play Jeff Baker against lefties, why wouldn’t you replace Ian Stewart at third base? The guy’s batting .196 this season and is a career .222 hitter against lefties. Meanwhile, Lahair is the only legitimate source of power on our team and makes for a great 3-4 punch with Starlin Castro. He should be playing every. Single. Game. Period. It makes no sense whatsoever.
So is Bryan Lahair for real? I say yes. He smashed 38 homers and drove in 109 runs en route to becoming MVP of the Pacific Coast League last year. He’s finally been given his chance. Stranger things have happened. But only time will tell. As of now, I don’t see why he can’t be a great short-term answer at first base and a great long-term answer as a corner outfielder (I know, I know. He’s a terrible fielder. But I’d rather have J’marcus Webb, let alone Bryan Lahair, in left field over Soriano.)