When Casey McGehee burst onto the scene for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009, he represented a pleasant surprise for the Brew Crew. McGehee was never a top prospect with the Chicago Cubs, the team who originally drafted him in 2003, and was even placed on waivers by the Cubs after the 2009 season.
He seized the moment by putting up a .301/.360/.499 slash line with 16 HRs and a .367 wOBA in 394 PA’s. Those numbers helped McGehee finish third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
McGehee followed up his rookie season with a pretty solid sophomore campaign. He finished the 2010 season with a .285/.337/.464 slash line with 23 HRs and a .346 wOBA in 670 plate appearances.
The Brewers were so impressed with McGehee that there were rumors the Brewers and McGehee were discussing a contract extension.
That extension was never finalized, and I am going to go out on a limb and say that McGehee had wished he signed that extension when he had the chance.
The first half of the 2011 season is in the books and it’s one that the former Fresno State Bulldog would rather forget.
McGehee is hitting a paltry .221/.272/.305 on the season with just four HRs in 335 PAs. His .084 ISO is fourth-worst amongst third basemen in 2011. As quickly as McGehee took the third base job in 2009 is as quickly as it appears McGehee is going to lose his job.
So that begs the question; What’s wrong with McGehee?
What’s wrong with McGehee is that pitchers have figured him out and he has failed to adjust.
Look, McGehee will show improvement as the season progresses. He’ll hit more than four HRs this season and his .252 BABIP will improve.
However, unless he goes on a historic run, 2011 will represent the third consecutive year of declining stats for McGehee. McGehee seems to be following the same career path that Garrett Atkins followed in Colorado. Atkins was putting up some pretty good numbers for the Rockies, but his peripherals were getting worse and worse with each passing year.
Atkins benefited from playing in a very good Colorado lineup, which inflated his numbers, and the same can be said for McGehee.
Take a look at McGehee’s peripherals over the past three seasons:
Outside of an improvement in K percentage in 2010, McGehee has declined in every peripheral over the past three seasons. And the reason for this is that pitchers have figured out how to pitch to McGehee.
It’s a simple formula: Don’t throw him fastballs.
For his career, McGehee is a minus-9.1 wSL, a minus-2.1 wCT and a minus-3.0 wCB. Coincidentally, McGehee is a 0.7 wFB for his career. Pitchers and pitching coaches have figured this out, which is why McGehee is seeing more sliders and curveballs than ever before in 2011.
Fittingly, 32.4 percent of the pitches McGehee has seen this season have been either sliders or curveballs, which represents a 2.4 percent increase from last season.
I would expect that number to increase as the season moves into the second half.
Unless McGehee starts making adjustments, he is going to follow the same career path as Atkins did in Colorado. And unfortunately for McGehee, that might mean he will be out of a job by 2013.