The 26 year old rookie outfielder was on fire. After toiling in the minors for more than six seasons (five in the Reds farm system), he had his big chance and did he ever make the most of it.
Repeating the same AAA level as the year before, he had nothing else to prove playing similar competition. Called up to the big leagues, the former Reds farmhand went on a tear. Earning 155 plate appearances over 41 games, the rookie smashed big league pitching to the tune of an OPS of 1126. He batted .403 with 7 homers and 12 doubles, a slugging percentage of .649.
Yes, Bob Ã¢â‚¬Å“HurricaneÃ¢â‚¬Â Hazle, a 26 year old rookie for the Milwaukee Braves in 1957, hit so well that he forced the Braves to move Hank Aaron from right field to center field to make way for the Ã¢â‚¬Å“rookieÃ¢â‚¬Â slugger. Hazle played so well as a rookie, he finished fourth in the rookie of the year vote despite only playing 41 games. The Braves won the World Series that year.
Yet, one year later, Hazle was out of major league baseball. He started 1958 with the Braves and was sold to the Tigers after batting .179 with no extra base hits in 66 plate appearances. Playing 43 games with the Tigers, he batted .241 with an OPS of 681. He played two more years in the Tigers farm system before calling it quits.
What the Tigers missed, and the Braves realized, was that only once in the minors did Hazle have an OPS surpass 800. He was always a mediocre hitter who caught lightning in a bottle for about a month and half in the big leagues and rode it to a cool nickname and a World Series championship. The Reds had realized this a season earlier and dealt him to the Braves.
Chris Dickerson was a 26 year old rookie for the Reds in 2008. After toiling almost six years in the Reds farm system, Dickerson got the big league call. Dickerson promptly went on a tear, batting .304 in over 120 plate appearances with nine doubles and six homers on the way to 1021 OPS. He already had the reputation as being a very good defensive outfielder with a very good arm. The Reds decided they didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to find another leftfielder for they needed defense and speed and Dickerson could do bothÃ¢â‚¬Â¦and, after all, it finally Ã¢â‚¬Å“clickedÃ¢â‚¬Â for Dickerson last yearÃ¢â‚¬Â¦at age 26.
However, what was missed with Dickerson, is that, at age 26, he was repeating his AAA year and his minor league season OPS crossed 800 for only the second time in his career. Another item missed, was that during his cup of coffee with the Reds, Dickerson struck out at an alarming rate, 35 times in 122 plate appearances, or once in about every 3.5 times to the plateÃ¢â‚¬Â¦a similar rate to his minor league days.
As 2009 has broken, Dickerson still strikes out. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s batting .190 with an OPS of 647 in 51 plate appearances, striking out 16 of his 51 times to the plate, or about once every three at bats.
Many fans were unhappy with Adam Dunn and his propensity to strike out and play mediocre defense in the outfield, and what many considered lackluster hustle. Yet, Dickerson strikes out more often than Dunn, provides less offense, and even made 11 outfield errors as recently as 2007, playing in 134 games. Dunn made 12 outfield errors in 2006 (his career high) in 156 games.
Chris Dickerson is a useful player, but is he really the guy the Reds need playing every day in LF? Age 26 rookies can get a lot of people excited (Yankee fans remember Shane Spencer in 1998. Same storyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦). DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be fooled by the mid-peak (peak defined as ages 25-29) rookie debut seasons. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s probably the time to sell high, or set low expectations.