Although the apple of Brewers fan’s eyes over the last month or so has been Yuniesky Betancourt’s white-hot bat, he’s not the only previously-underperforming Brewers infielder to make a big impact over Milwaukee’s crazy hot streak of late. Casey McGehee has been on a tear as well, posting a .314/.348/.600 line in the last 18 games. Since McGehee hit what turned out to be the game winning home run against Arizona back on July 6th — prompting yours truly to wonder if we can believe in him again — McGehee is hitting .280/.322/.439, eerily similar to his career marks of .273/.326/.434.
With the league hitting roughly .250/.320/.380, McGehee has been solidly above average over the last month or so. The Brewers have decided against bringing up Taylor Green the entire season, and McGehee’s last month of performance is justifying that decision. McGehee is still only projected for a .263/.311/.401 line by ZiPS, a far cry from his putrid performance of the early season but not the kind of quality one would hope for.
Projections for players like McGehee — those who collapse after a period of better performance — are a bit of an odd bird, though. They always end up right in the middle of the two extremes, as we see for McGehee, but that may not be the most likely scenario. Instead of the typical bell curve around the projection, what’s more likely is a bimodal distribution, or a “twin peaks” curve, looking something like this:
The peak on the left represents McGehee’s performance from his collapse, with the peak on the right representing a return to his career norms. Perhaps the probabilities shouldn’t be perfectly equal, but the details are less important than the overall concept.
Players like McGehee — terrible in the minor leagues, but who figure out how to hit at the MLB level — are notoriously difficult to figure out, and even two full seasons can’t tell us as much as we’d like to know. If such a slump were to happen for, say, Ryan Braun, he has enough of a pedigree for us to say he’ll come out of it. As such, McGehee is harder to predict than most players, whose numbers already go through all the randomness of simply being human.
This last month is certainly encouraging, though and watching McGehee shoot balls to the opposite field with authority once again gives me confidence that he could be back to normal. Sure, one month is a tiny sample, but given the nature of these in-season projections and the fickle nature of power numbers, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that McGehee is back and producing like he did over the last two years.