Until he blasted his first home run of the 2009 spring in Friday afternoon’s split squad game, new St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Khalil Greene had been quietly flying under the radar.
With more controversial stories all over camp, from Joel Pineiro to Chris Carpenter to Skip Schumaker and Colby Rasmus, there just wasn’t much to say about the stoic new guy. Steady, doing his job.
On Friday, Greene’s mammoth two-run shot that reportedly landed on a field beyond the left field fence helped power the Cardinals to a 6-5 victory over the home Baltimore Orioles, their ninth win of the spring in 14 games. The 29-year-old added a single in three at-bats to raise his Florida average to .367.
Even prior to Friday’s outburst, I had been looking at Greene’s spring training results going back to his first camp with San Diego in 2003. I was wondering if his springs might say anything about his regular seasons to follow.
After all, considering Greene’s terrible 2008 regular season with the Padres (.213/.260/.339), I was hoping to see a positive trend of some kind. While I did, the spring extremes I found were surprising.
In seven major league springs, including 2009, Greene has been either boom or bust, with absolutely nothing in between.
He has yet to post a March average anywhere in the range between .224 and .339, with four springs below. Three are above, including so far here in 2009.
The right-handed hitter has not registered a March OPS between .733 and .956, a huge gulf if there ever was one. If you throw out his five at-bat introduction in 2003, Greene’s spring OPS canyon expands from .678 to .956.
I find that amazing.
*through 3/13 Game 1
As the highlighted data above indicates, Greene’s big springs prior to this one were in 2004 and 2007.
How did he do from April until October those years? The answer is “pretty darned well”.
During his 2004 introductory season, his first as a full-timer in San Diego, Greene finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. He posted what are still his regular-season career bests in three important offensive categories – batting average (.273), on-base percentage (.349) and OPS (.795).
The 2007 campaign is the one that probably generated the most attention for Greene, however. That year, he slammed his career best of 27 home runs and drove in 97 runs, also his high water mark. His 2007 slugging percentage of .468 is his highest to date.
While there remains plenty of time during spring training 2009 for Greene’s trajectory to change, based on his past results, one might draw the conclusion that he seems on the way to an offensive turnaround during the 2009 regular season.