Maybe the biggest surprise of the 2012 season so far is just how well Elliot Johnson is playing. Prior to the season, Johnson wasn’t even a lock to be on the roster and was out of minor league options. Now, with a slew of injuries, Johnson has started 10 of the last 12 games and is 12-26 on his current 8-game hitting streak.
Gary Shelton of the Tampa Bay Times wrote about Johnson’s surprising success and noted that Johnson has finally adapted his hitting style, leading to this quote from Joe Maddon…
“There are certain hitters who are blessed with enough power to be a bad hitter…You know, when you reach the seats once in a while and it feels so good to do the trot, and you get to do it six, seven, eight times a year when you’re hitting .210, .220 and (have) a high number of strikeouts and a low number of walks … guys have to understand that doesn’t work.”
While Maddon was talking about EJ, that description fits another Rays middle infielder perfectly, Reid Brignac. Since the start of the 2010 season, Briggy is hitting .223 with 9 home runs in 213 games. He also has 143 strikeouts and just 31 walks.
Brignac’s problems likely started in the single-A, hitter-friendly ballparks of the California League. In 2006, Brignac hit .326 with 21 home run, winning the CL MVP.
Briggy got the taste for that home run trot that Maddon was talking about. And to this day, even though he clearly doesn’t have power, Brignac still has a power hitter’s uppercut swing.
Consider that in 2011, Brignac, who should be slapping the ball around, hit 29.2% more flyballs than groundballs. And then look at this spray chart for the 2010 and 2011 seasons combined (via TexasLeaguers.com)…
He occasionally gets a hold of one and the ball just clears the right field fence. Otherwise, not a lot of balls hit by Brignac even get close to the fence. Not good for a guy hitting a lot of flyballs.
So Maddon may have been talking about Elliot Johnson. But he might also have been talking to Reid Brignac. He better get the message, or he may never reach the potential some had hoped for.