Exit Interview: Jeremy Hazelbaker

For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is Two Birds on a Bat.  One of the more recent shows I’ve found, these guys are a bit of a throwback, just three guys talking about the game (though with a professional-sounding show).  Plus they regularly have Bengie Molina weighing in.  Find them on iTunes or check out their site!

Player: Jeremy Hazelbaker

Season stats: 114 games, 224 PA, 35 R, 7 2B, 3 3B. 12 HR, 28 RBI, 18 BB, 64 K, .235/.295/.480, 103 OPS+, 0.2 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 6, Goat 3

Overall grade: B

Positives: Had an outstanding April, with a .317/.357/.683 with five home runs….had an .854 OPS in wins….had four pinch-hit home runs and a .268 average in those situations….hit .291 when leading off an inning and .293 when there were no outs….had a .900 OPS when the game was tied….had a .283/.363/.646 mark against starters….did most of his divisional damage against the Brewers, whom he had a .348/.360/.652 line against.

Negatives: Had 20 hits in April, just 27 hits the rest of the year….hit just .211 in the second half, including a .143 mark in September….hit .205 with runners in scoring position….had a .194/.237/.389 line in late and close situations….hit .188 against relievers….had just a .506 OPS against power pitchers with no home runs….was terrible against the Cubs and the Reds, with a combined average of .054 against the two squads.

Overview: In the grand tradition of players like Bo Hart comes Jeremy Hazelbaker, a player that splashes on to the scene and then eventually fades away.  (Hart had a .391/.426/.563 line in roughly the same number of PA as Hazelbaker’s April to start his career.)  There’s no doubt that Hazelbaker, a guy that most Cardinal fans didn’t even know was in the the system, exceeded expectations this year because there were no expectations for him to have.  That April was outstanding, but it seems that pitchers figured out he had trouble hitting a hard four-seamer and fed him a steady diet of them.  That’s something that’s tough to come back from.  Thankfully Matheny realized that as well–Hazelbaker only had 80 plate appearances after June, though part of that was a trip to Memphis.

Outlook: Hazelbaker had a good year off the bench and could be a fourth or fifth outfielder, perhaps, bouncing between Memphis and St. Louis depending on the health of other outfielders.  He shouldn’t be anywhere close to a starting conversation, though, and it would not be a surprise at all if he wound up in Memphis all year or bumped off the 40-man roster and made a free agent if the Cardinals needed the space.  Well, that wouldn’t have been a surprise, at least, until the Cardinals put him on waivers and he was claimed by the Diamondbacks.  Perhaps he’ll get some playing time in a good hitting park.

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