Friday, October 14, 2011

Jerry-Meander Hairston

If you look up the definition of, "journeyman," there might well be a picture of Jerry Hairston, Jr. next to the entry. He's played fourteen seasons for eight different teams. He's never been spectacular. He's only been a starter once (for the Orioles way back in 2001). At times he's been less than valuable. But most of the time, he offers a little bit of value to his team, but not much more than that. He has played seven different positions during his career with more than eighty games logged in six of them. He's a utility guy. No more. No less. But in the wonders of playoff sample size, he's become one of the heroes of the Brewers' post season.

Hairston, of course, is a member of the semi-famous Hairston baseball family. He is the brother of Scott Hairston, who has also had a long and unspectacular career. He is the son of Jerry Hairston, Sr., who also had a long and unspectacular career. And he is the grandson of Sam Hairston, who had all of four games of glory as a major league player back in 1951. The symmetry between the two Jerry Hairston's is pretty freaky. Junior has played fourteen seasons. Senior played fourteen seasons. Junior has a .258 lifetime batting average. Senior had a .258 lifetime batting average. Junior has a .371 lifetime slugging percentage. Senior had a .371 lifetime slugging percentage. But really, the similarities end there. Senior played his entire career with the White Sox except for one season elsewhere. Senior was mostly an outfielder who didn't come close to the playing time his son has seen. Senior also had a better on base percentage. But the bottom line is that both father and son played a long time and were good enough to be on major league rosters, but were never good enough to play every day.

Fast forward now to 2011 and Junior. He started the season with the Washington Nationals. He played a surprising number of games for them plying five different positions. He hit pretty well for a Hairston and had a 100 OPS+ in 75 games. On the last day of the trade deadline, the Nationals traded Hairston to the Brewers for a minor league player named Erik Kamatsu, who seems destined to stay in Double A for a while. He got into 45 games for the Brewers after the trade and was his solid, if unspectacular self while patrolling five different positions. Utility guy. A good guy to have around. He won't embarrass you wherever he plays and he's handy.

But heading into the post season, the Brewers had a problem. They had completely lost faith in their regular third baseman, Casey McGehee. McGehee looked lost at the plate most of the season and finished with a slash line in 600 plate appearances of: .223/.280/.346. McGehee, never really known for his patience at the plate, had a good season in the field, but offered nothing at the plate as his power dried up and he couldn't get on base. So the Brewers turned to Jerry Hairston, Jr. who has played the entire post season at third for the Brewers and with that decision came another dose of post season serendipity.

In the Division Series against the Diamondbacks, Hairston started all five games and hit .375 with an OPS of .900. He drove in three runs with two doubles and scored two runs. He's now played all four of the Championship Series against the Cardinals and has the same .375 average and has improved his OPS to .974 with three doubles, an RBI and four runs scored. He's been in the middle of everything for the Brewers and made a spectacular slide at home plate to tie the game up on Thursday night.

It's simply one of those fluky things that happens in the post season. The Brewers have to be ecstatic while the Cardinals (and Diamondbacks before them) are probably saying, "Jerry Bleeping Hairston." It's been quite fun to see the reactions from the stats guys on Twitter as Hairston continues to operate at inhuman levels. Jerry-Meander Hairston is having fun in his own sandbox and all we can do is smile and shake our heads.

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