Bill Hall seems to be the Brewers player who everyone loves to hate.
For whatever reason, I just can't bring myself to get on that bandwagon. I guess you could say I'm the No. 1 Bill Hall apologist, but for the last two seasons it's been pretty hard to find anything positive with his game.
In 2005, Hall burst onto the scene as a super-sub for the Brewers.
He hit .291 with 17 home runs and 18 stolen bases. Hall was able to show his versatility in the field and that he had some pop in his bat despite being labeled a "light-hitting" middle infielder.
Hall had a chance to play full-time in 2006 after an injury ended JJ Hardy's season, and he subsequently turned into a legitimate power hitter.
His average dipped to .270, but he belted 35 home runs and slugged an impressive .553. On the flip side of that, he struck out 162 times and showed little plate discipline.
2007 saw another dip in Hall's numbers at the plate, and he also made the move from middle infield to center field, forcing him to learn the position on the fly.
His batting average fell to .254 and his home runs fell to 14. He struck out 128 times in only 452 at bats.
To his credit, Hall showed improvement in the field in the second half of the season, but he was never able to turn around his success at the plate.
Hall moved back to the infield in 2008 after the Brewers signed Mike Cameron. He started the season as the regular third baseman, but due to his lack of production that quickly turned into a platoon role.
Hall hit lefties just fine, but he had no success against righties. For the season, Hall hit just .225 with only 15 home runs.
In only 128 games, he went down on strikes 124 times. His on-base percentage fell below .300, and his slugging percentage dropped below .400.
Many fans were hoping to see prospect Mat Gamel be given the nod at third base in 2008, or even this year in Spring Training, given that Hall's calf injury early in camp only added to the speculation and hope that he would be replaced this year.
To many fans' chagrin, Hall has recovered from the injury, and he appears set to start Opening Day for the Brewers at the hot corner.
Several of Hall's teammates have said this spring that he may have a huge bounce-back season in 2009.
This is due in large part to the laser eye surgery he had over the winter. Hall has said he is seeing the ball better, and he also expects to have improved numbers at the plate.
I would love to sit here and tell you that Hall will indeed return to his 2005 or 2006 form, but I just don't see him ever hitting 30 home runs in a season again.
However, I do think he will improve greatly on his .225 average from last season. I think he can hit between .255 and .270 and get some of his power back. I believe Hall can attain 20 home runs and drive in at least 70 runs.
Hall's defense does need to improve, and I think another year at the hot corner full-time will be just what he needs after bouncing around the field for so many years.
Hall is as athletic as any player and will get to a lot of balls, but he needs to harness the power in his arm and make accurate throws across the diamond.
This is probably Hall's last chance to remain a full-time player for Milwaukee, so if he has a good year he will likely remain a starter at some position through the end of his current contract.
Should he struggle, Mat Gamel may be brought up to play, and Hall could become a bench player, or even become trade bait for the Brewers.
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