End Of Season Grades: First Base
Mike B. | On 02, Oct 2011
Thursday began a two week, end of season grade and breakdown by each position. Certainly after the wild ride the 2011 Cleveland Indians took fans on, grades, projections and areas of improvement are all sought for 2012, with the goal being a playoff team next season. Today, we examine first baseman, Matt LaPorta. Be sure to check out our previous features.
.247 AVG, 11 HR, 53 RBI
It has been a long time since the bar has been set so high, and an Indian has come so far from reaching it as Matt LaPorta. Admittedly, being the centerpiece returning from the C.C. Sabathia trade has certainly done him no favors, but he has arguably got worse each season.
When LaPorta was traded to the Indians in mid July of 2008, he was one of the leading home run hitters at AA, hitting 20 home runs, with a .288 batting average and a .402 on base percentage. In 2009, LaPorta did much of the same at AAA with the Indians, hitting 17 home runs, with a .299 batting average and a .388 on base percentage in 93 games. While he was still young, he appeared to be the right handed, middle of the order bat the Indians find themselves currently in of so badly.
However, LaPorta has never been able to take his minor league successes to the major league stage. After a difficult 2010, where he only hit .221 in 110 games for the Indians, 2011 was supposed to be LaPorta’s breakout year. It may be his breakdown year instead.
Despite seeing his average rise to .249 this season, LaPorta has seemed to have lost all plate awareness. He has a career low. 299 on base percentage, walking only 22 times in 381 plate appearances, but striking out 87 times. Maybe as disappointing as his offense, is his lack of fundamentals. LaPorta has committed seven errors at first base, which is quite high for a position with so many routine attempts. He also suffered an ankle injury on June 17 when he ran in front of a ground ball at shortstop, being thrown out at third base, a cardinal sin for any baseball players.
Not just was LaPorta a disappointment in regards to his own development this season, but he also served as a major letdown to a team desperate for a right-handed power hitter in the middle of the lineup. His struggles and disappointing season even earned him a late-August demotion for ten days to AAA Columbus. The message sent from the Indians seems to be loud and clear, he is no longer a cornerstone of the Indians plans moving ahead.
While the message may have been clear, LaPorta finds himself as one of the five biggest questions for the Indians heading into the offseason. If LaPorta is no longer a key part of the Indians future, what role, if any, does he have with the organization?
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images