No player is as important to the success of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009 than Corey Hart. Yes, I really just said that. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are the All-Stars, but Hart is the player that needs to be successful this year in order for the Brewers to make a second straight playoff appearance.
Hart went from the penthouse to the outhouse all in one season. He won the fan vote in July to earn the right to play in his first All-Star game, but by the end of the season, Hart was almost an easier out than the pitcher's spot in the batting order.
Hart's splits between the first and second half are mind-boggling. His batting average dropped over 50 points from .289 to .239. His on-base percentage tumbled 64 points from .327 down to .263. Most notably, his slugging percentage plunged 108 points from .504 all the way down to .396. Hart hit only five home runs in the second half of the season, including none after August 30.
Hart's decline in overall production is simply staggering. He is in no way a bad player. He has the talent and athleticism to be a consistent 30/30 player for this team. His combination of speed and power should not only clean up whatever base runners the top of the order left on base, but he should also be setting the table for the bottom of the order.
Hart showed a great deal of mental weakness last season as well. He openly criticized the fan base for booing him and the team in September. He said it was easier to play on the road and deal with the opposing fans booing as opposed to the hometown fans booing. I think Hart failed to realize that the fans booing him were the exact same people that voted him into the All-Star game only two months earlier.
Hart needs to show the mental toughness that he lacked last season. He is off to a quick start in Spring Training, and hopefully he can carry that over into the regular season. I think Hart will show himself to be much closer to the player he was in 2007 as opposed to the wreck he turned out to be in 2008. I expect him to hit between .285 and .295 while showing his power and speed versatility by posting another 20/20 season.
Like I said earlier, Corey Hart is an extremely talented and gifted player. He must overcome the mental issues that caused him so many problems at the plate. If he can do that, the Brewers will be in playoff contention the entire year. If not, the Brewers offense will struggle, and the team may need to find a replacement for Hart in 2010.