TEMPE, Ariz. -- For a guy with so much power, Bryan LaHair looks like he will leave Arizona without a home run this spring.
It’s not only an unexpected occurrence because the ball tends to fly a long way in the desert, but also because LaHair hit 53 total home runs after spring training ended a year ago.
Not only did LaHair hit 38 home runs at Triple-A Iowa last season, he then went to play for Magallanes of the Venezuelan winter league and he crushed 15 more.
Yet this spring all that power seemed to disappear. It’s not like he hasn’t hit the ball hard. He might have started the spring slow, but he has seven doubles among his 18 hits. In seven at-bats in a simulated game, he hit three more doubles.
Don’t misunderstand. It isn’t like LaHair is a one-dimensional power hitter. He did hit for a .331 batting average as well at Iowa last year, but nobody was expecting him to turn into a hitter for average this season.
“People forget that home runs come in bunches and you need 600 at-bats to hit 25-35 home runs,” manager Dale Sveum. “He’s hit plenty of balls off the walls.”
Talk about home runs all you want, but Sveum would rather focus on other run-producing statistics.
“Home runs aren’t as important as driving in runs and slugging percentage,” Sveum said. “Slugging percentage is the key, whether it’s doubles with two guys on, one guy on and he scores from first or whatever. It’s not the home runs. That’s what gets a lot of people in trouble. Forty doubles, 20 home runs is a pretty nice slugging percentage that you end up with.”
LaHair’s .410 slugging percentage this spring isn’t anywhere near his Pacific Coast League-leading .664 mark last year, but the Cubs will operate under the premise that his hitting stroke is improving and the power will come.