Face it, Brady isn't slap-happy kind of guy

INSIDE PITCH

June 28, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

The barely audible groans you might have heard Sunday night were predictable. They came from those who will again preoccupy themselves with the fear that Brady Anderson will pay more attention to his home-run total than his on-base percentage.

It has become such a source of concern for some that not even a three-game sweep of the fading Toronto Blue Jays, including a two-homer game by Anderson, can take precedence. The picture of a leadoff hitter swinging for power with a high ratio of strikeouts is simply too hazy for the idealists to frame.

"A big man's swing in a little man's body," has been a popular description of Anderson's hitting style.

The perception, still, is that he should be slapping singles to the opposite field, drawing walks, bunting and stealing bases.

In other words, primarily because of his speed, he is expected to be the prototype leadoff hitter. There's only one problem -- Anderson doesn't fit the job description. He is listed at 6 feet 1 and 195 pounds, which should hardly restrict him to a "little man's" swing.

It's only been since Anderson came to the big leagues that he's been stereotyped as someone better suited to hit like a flea. It is a little known fact, but through most of his tenure in the minor leagues, Anderson hit in the No. 3 slot.

In his first 881 at-bats in the minor leagues, spread over parts of three seasons, Anderson drove in 151 runs -- and hit 25 home runs.

Those numbers suggested some offensive authority and earned him a promotion to the big leagues in 1988, when he opened the season in center field for the Red Sox.

For the next four seasons, an attempt was made to mold Anderson into a "punch-and-run" hitter, with the hope he could run his way to something close to a .300 average. The experiment failed miserably.

In 1,071 at-bats during those four seasons, Anderson compiled a .221 average with only 66 extra-base hits (10 home runs) and 88 RBIs. He gave little indication of being able to hit even as high as .250 while attempting to adapt to the traditional role of a leadoff hitter.

During the 1992 and '93 seasons, while reverting to his natural style, he hit for a .267 average, drove in 146 runs and scored 187 -- with 34

home runs included among 116 extra-base hits. Not to be overlooked is that he struck out 197 times.

Those numbers reflect a decidedly more aggressive approach. They also indicate an added dimension not usually found in a leadoff hitter.

Anderson's numbers are down slightly so far this season, but not as drastically as you might think. Before straining a hamstring muscle last night, he was on a pace that would produce 59 extra-base hits (20 home runs), 52 RBIs and, most important, 108 runs scored, which would be eight more than the career high he established in 1992.

Not too many leadoff hitters would turn down those numbers. So, the next time you think, hear or read about Anderson trying to pull the ball to right field too much, just remember how it used to be.

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