Thursday, July 28, 2005

40 Hits In July: Chris Shelton Going Batty For Tigers

Ready for a pop quiz?

Quick now, which player has the most hits in major league baseball in the month of July? Yes, I said the entire major leagues. The most hits. The month of July.

That I know the answer is the Tigers’ Chris Shelton can only be attributed to the fact that Mario Impemba and Rod Allen made a note of it during Wednesday night’s broadcast. But I didn’t need that fact -- though very impressive -- to confirm that Shelton is a hitting machine that is going to light up Comerica Park and Tigers fans hearts for years to come.

Detroit's next hitting star? Oh yeah

This redheaded kid, this Shelton, simply straps it on every day and works the count and just about handles every pitch that is thrown his way. He strikes out a little bit, but he knocks in runs like a bowler knocks down pins. Also mentioned during Wednesday’s broadcast was Shelton’s batting average this season while the count was full: .438. Who does he think he is, Ted Williams?

Okay, so he’s not THAT good, but his overall average is in the rarified air of .360+ and every time I look at a box score, it seems like he’s gotten two more hits. Maybe that’s why Shelton, with 40 hits for the month going into Wednesday’s game, has more base hits than anyone in the big leagues during July.

Shelton was a steal, which makes his contributions all the more delicious. He was one of those Rule 5 guys, meaning the Tigers basically got him for nothing, as long as he stayed on the major league roster for all of 2004, which he did, but he hardly got any at-bats. Still, I had heard nothing but good things about this kid -- that he hit everywhere he played and had a wonderful command of the strike zone. Just wait til you see this Chris Shelton, those in the know said.

Well, I have seen this Chris Shelton, and the way he’s anchored the #3 spot in the batting order like a 10-year veteran, and I am telling you right now, he’s going to make this town go crazy in the years to come. He’s not flashy, so he won’t turn us on with pizazz, but he will, mark my words, be one of those Alan Trammell-like fixtures here -- substance over style. I mean, come on -- he’s hitting .360 already, for crying out loud. So what happens when he really gets the hang of this major league thing?

From what I’ve seen, Shelton is not an all-hit, no-field type. He plays a more than decent first base. He’s not going to hurt you in the field. But it won’t be his glove work that will make him a star in major league baseball. This kid simply hits the tar out of the ball, but he makes it easier on himself by having such a keen eye at the plate. The strikeouts aside, Shelton makes the pitcher work, every at-bat. He has tremendous patience. A Chris Shelton at-bat might take seven or eight pitches to complete. Even if he doesn’t get on base, that’s okay, because if every Tiger worked the pitcher as hard as Shelton does, the team would be wearing down a whole lot more arms than they are now.

As far as weak spots, I haven’t seen too many when it comes to Shelton. He seems to be able to hit it wherever it’s thrown and however it’s thrown -- high and inside, low and outside, breaking balls, fastballs, sliders, you name it. And he has some pop -- nine homers already in under 200 at-bats.

No, Chris Shelton won’t bowl you over with his flash or his personality or his bravado. All he’ll do is show up to the ballpark and slap a couple of hits around, maybe poke a homer here and there, and drive in some people.

That exciting enough for you?

1 comment:

Ian C. said...

Shelton's going to win a batting title someday. (Heck, he might do it this year, if he gets enough at-bats to qualify.) He's been the most pleasant surprise for the Tigers this season. What a find.