A meme I've heard lately is how Brett Lawrie is, offensively, a lot like Yoenis Cespedes. I get the idea: Lawrie, like his Cuban predecessor, has a penchant for chasing bad balls until you are ready to commit unspeakable acts on the next kitten you see, and then he'll hit the ball harder than you thought a ball could be hit.
Statistically, there are indeed similarities, from the high BABIP to the low walk rate. Differences come from more of Cespedes' hard hit balls sailing over the wall for HRs, while many of Lawrie's are sizzled into the gap for doubles -- hence about a .060 separation in slugging percentage.
Fair enough, but actually watching Lawrie so far this season he absolutely has reminded me of an A's hitter. It is not, however, Cespedes. Lawrie reminds me a lot of Josh Reddick -- that is, the rendition of Reddick we watched from 2012-2014.
Start with the fact that Lawrie and Reddick are similar personality types, and ones whose personality absolutely informs their play. Both are high intensity, high strung, "leave it all out there" guys who approach the game the only way they know how approach anything: full throttle and with No Emotion Left Behind.
At times, of course, that high strung intensity can work against an athlete. In his early seasons, there were times I wished the A's would just be bold and put on the "take" sign when Reddick had a full count, batting in a key spot with runners on base. I knew Reddick was going to get a changeup, or breaking ball, at the ankles. I knew Reddick would swing at it and strike out. Then it would happen.
"If I knew it, why didn't he???"
I guess when you're a young Josh Reddick and Lucy is holding the football, you just can't say "You know, I think I'm going to wait until Marcie gets her and just let her hold the football for me." You are not coachable, which isn't to say you refuse to listen to instruction, it's to say that instruction cannot change the fact that in the moment, with the football right there all kickable, all you are capable of doing is seeing that football and saying, "I'm gonna kick you so far you're gonna --"
"Aw, man. Again?"
Then one day it all changed for Reddick. In 2015, almost from the git-go Reddick was relaxed, calmed down at the plate, he spit on most of those sucker pitches, became a totally different and better hitter. Why? The answer is "maturity," but not the kind that a coach can help to foster with good counsel or teachings. You just have to wait for it. I truly believe that nothing was going to get Reddick from where he was, to where he is, except for time. And it wasn't on any timetable but his brain's, and his body's, development.
I see the same in Lawrie. The same personality yielding many of the same at bats. You can tell him how to adjust and in the heat of the moment when the pitch is coming? It will be as if no one has ever said a thing to him. And he'll be hard on himself, berating himself for the bad at bat and vowing to do better next time, and then next time? In the heat of the moment when the pitch is coming...
So what you're seeing from Lawrie this year is a lot of bats reminiscent of the at bats we watched Reddick take the past couple seasons. Until one day, when I believe suddenly Lawrie will mature -- on his own, whenever it is time and not a minute sooner or a minute later -- into a hitter more like Reddick is today. then you will see the Brett Lawrie who was a heralded 1st round pick and a blue chip prospect, and who took the league by storm his rookie season much as Reddick did, initially, in 2012.
This is in contrast to Cespedes, who kind of "is who he is and probably always will be". I think Lawrie will develop just as Reddick did. But will it happen for Lawrie when he is 25? 26? 27? During his tenure with the A's? I say nobody knows and nobody can impact it one iota. It's not a coachable thing, I don't believe; it's strictly a matter of maturity on a timeline that is unique to the person. In that sense, it must be frustrating to be the A's hitting coach, Darren Bush. Probably almost as frustrating as it is to be Brett Lawrie.