Going onlne for $8.00 per card

There is nothing to be said about the biggest regular-season series in recent Braves memory that hasn’t been said a thousand times already.  So I won’t try.  Let’s win the first one and take it from there. I want to talk about @MONEYYYMIKEE.

Michael Harris II has now played 109 MLB games.  As of Wednesday night, he has now been put in all 9 slots in the starting lineup.  I wanted to take a look at how unusual this is.  So I made a list of everyone who has ever been written in the starting lineup in all 9 positions in a single season.  (As always, this list is based on the Retrosheet Database that doesn’t include the current season.  So if there’s someone other than Money Mike who has done so this season, I won’t know about it.)

It turns out that 90 different player-seasons have featured players batting in all nine lineup places.  Unsurprisingly, all date after the introduction of the designated hitter in 1973.  Some players have done it in more than one season – Dave Bergman (1988, 1989), Lorenzo Cain (2012,2021), Robbie Grossman (2017,2018), Enrique Hernandez (2017-19), Kelly Johnson (2011,2015), and Josh Reddick (2017,2019).  So it’s only 83 players.

Although the list could have a lot of ‘70s and ‘80s players on it, it has very few.  This is clearly a result of the fact that, partly influenced by sabermetrics, where guys sit in the batting order has moved around a lot more lately.

Harris’ full-spectrum batting feat over 109 games is not even close to the shortest time.  That record belongs to Matt Duffy, who started at all 9 places in only 41 games in 2019.  Runner up is Williams Astudillo, who spanned the order in 46 games started in the same year.  At the other end is Dansby, who did it last year in 174 games played, counting the playoffs. The full list is below, sorted by games started, if anybody’s interested, though depending on where you’re reading it you may have to squint a little.  I’m not sure there’s any one common denominator of these guys, except for the fact that none of them are superstars. A lot of them played for the Braves at one point or another: Grossman, Swanson, d’Arnaud, Kelly Johnson, Matt Kemp, even Mudge.

But the amazing thing about Harris is that he is only the second rookie to bat in all nine positions.  This is unsurprising.  Lots of rookies have very few appearances at all, and are reduced to pinch hitting roles or very circumscribed places low in the order.  Indeed, Harris was in that mold: the bulk of his early appearances were all in the 9th spot, which represents almost 2/3rds of his starts.  What is remarkable is how quickly he has proven himself reliable enough to be put anywhere in the order if the situation calls for it. Only Adam Kennedy has a roughly comparable number of games in the 9th spot. In any case, in the history of MLB, only one other rookie has batted in all 9 positions: Dan Ford did so for the Twins way back in 1975. 

But that brings up a question that has been asked: is MHII our 2022 MVP?  Obviously, his counting stats come nowhere close to the traditional measures.  But here’s the thing: the team turned around when he showed up, and this isn’t just a coincidence.  He simultaneously brough Andruw-level (OK… a few hairs below, but a hair below is still amazingly good) play to center field, and replaced sub-replacement at-bats (and there were a lot of them… Mike Ford, Travis Demeritte, Robby Cano, Alex Dickerson, Phil Gosselin et al, all negative WAR) with 7ish WAR-level production when extended over a full season.  That’s the difference between being us and, say, the Milwaukee Brewers.

I don’t have a good answer to Braves MVP.  Among hitters, the only possible choices are Riley, Swanson and Harris.  Among pitchers, the only possible choices are Fried, Wright and Strider.  I think cases can be made for any of those 6, but the fact that there are two rookies (and Wright, while technically not a rookie, is an astonishing surprise) in that mix, and one of them didn’t make his major league debut until the cusp of June is astonishing. The fact that none of them is near 30 (Fried is the elder statesman at 28) makes me optimistic about this series, and the future.

So let’s sweep the Mets with some Harris Heroics (though frankly I’m willing to accept heroics from anyone ready to be heroic) and take it from there.

Appendix: Wherever You Want To Bat Me, Coach