Nate McLouth: The Atlanta Braves Centerfielder Is Playing Like It's 2008

Will BrownContributor IMay 6, 2011

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 04:  Nate McLouth #13 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after hitting a two-run homer in the fourth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Turner Field on May 4, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Everyone knows the story.

In 2008, Nate McLouth went from a no-name player to an All-Star when he hit .276 with 26 homers, 94 RBI, 23 stolen bases and an OPS of .853. He was traded to the Braves in 2009 and has seen his game hit a serious decline since then. This includes a putrid 2010, where he ended up being buried in the minors. 

This spring, all we heard (or saw, if you were able to catch their games) was that Nate had changed his approach and was now hitting line drives all over the park. He got off to a terrible start after starting the season in the two hole. After hitting in the low .200s for the first half of April, McLouth was moved down to the No. 8 hole.

Needless to say, the Braves are happy with his production so far.

Through 39 at bats in the No. 8 hole, McLouth is hitting .462 with two homers, scored 14 runs and posted an OPS of 1.334. No, that's not a typo. 

For McLouth to be hitting so well in the spot ahead of the pitcher is quite an amazing thing. It also has made him one of the main cogs of our turnaround after another slow start. 

McLouth is now sitting with a very good .279 average and is leading the team with 21 runs scored. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Some fans are still blind to seeing what he is doing right now.

I guess I can understand why after 2010, but McLouth hit well all spring—in fact was one of our more impressive hitters from the time practices started—and after starting slow, he has blown up in a spot that is usually very tough to hit in.

So what does this mean for the Braves going forward? If McLouth can continue to hit anywhere near this level (i.e. just .300 in the spot), then you will continue to get good use out of his plus base-running abilities and the top of the lineup will consistently have guys on. 

Of course, if he continues to hit like this, most people are going to want him moved (talk about irony if this happens), but McLouth is still coming up to bat with people in scoring position and is currently hitting at a clip .421 in those situations.

McLouth is not going to continue to hit this well, but it is quite possible that he ends up hitting .270-.280 this year. His current BABIP is .337, while his career average is .280 (this does include the .221 in 2010), so you can expect that to drop more into his normal range.

I think any Braves fan should take that from an eight-hole hitter. If not, then they are letting 2010 blind them just a little.