One of the few early season offensive stars for the Phillies thus far in the early stages of the 2015 season has been the 2nd year third baseman, Cody Asche.
After last night’s game, Asche sports a very nice .500/.571/.667 slash line with 1 HR and 2 RBI. Even though it is a small sample size, the numbers are encouraging because of how he has arrived at them. So far this year, Asche has gone 8 for 20 (.400 AVG) against right-handed pitchers, and he’s a perfect 4 for 4 against lefties.
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Mind you, as I stated before, this is an extremely small sample size, but the fact that he is hitting lefties like this is encouraging. This is continuing a trend from last season, where Asche actually hit better against lefties than righties (.733 vs. .690 OPS).
Strangely, manager Ryne Sandberg saw fit to bench him to get a look at offensive juggernaut (sic) Andres Blanco last week, but it seems this season-opening hot streak has holstered the eraser in Sandberg’s hand when he gazes at the lineup card. Even the beat writers are hoping Asche stays in the lineup:
Yet, can he keep this up? Is this just a hot start for the soon to be 25-year old, or the start to a genuine breakout season?
In looking at his 2014 Spray Chart, we can see that last year, Asche was primarily a pull hitter:
His final numbers were less than impressive (.252/.309/.390), and led to his losing more playing time and valuable developmental time late in the season to then top hitting prospect Maikel Franco. As those numbers show, it was wholly justifiable. This led to Asche coming into spring training in a fight for the starting third baseman’s spot, which he didn’t so much win as Franco lost. He also clearly had something to work on with regards to how opposing pitchers approached him.
In 2014, pitchers chose to attack Asche in the following manner:
You can plainly see that pitchers wanted to work him away, forcing Asche to try to pull the ball weakly to the right side of the infield (we’ll refer to that sarcastically as the “Howard Approach”.) Putting those two charts together, you can see that the pitchers were generally successful in this approach.
In 2015, Asche will be forced to try to make adjustments. Opposing teams are still approaching him the same way, and he will need to make a concerted effort to take the ball to the opposite field.
His early season success is unsustainable (a .688 BABIP?!?!?!? Hello, plexiglass principle), but if he can even make small adjustments, sustained success could follow. Coming up through the minor leagues, Asche was thought of as being someone who would be able to hit at the highest level, so there is some pedigree here. Expecting this would be foolhardy, but it is something that he at least is capable of attaining.
It is in Asche’s own self-interest to improve. His main competition for the Phillies longterm job at the hot corner, Franco, is off to a good start at Triple A Lehigh Valley (.296/.387/.630 with 1 HR and 7 RBI in 27 AB), and probably won’t need much more seasoning in those minors.
Asche’s success could keep Franco in Lehigh Valley for a time, but one way or another, Franco is coming to Philadelphia soon (we’re looking at you, Big Piece). With fans clamoring for a youth movement at Citizens Bank Park, having those two hitters find success together in the big league lineup this summer would bode well for the future of the team.