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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Huff's return to form no sure thing

The San Francisco Giants are ready to announce, any day now, the acquisition of a big, middle-of-the-order bat, someone they believe will be key to take them through the stretch drive.

And he would cost them nothing.

That would be Aubrey Huff.

But as mid-season trades are no sure thing, neither is the return to form of a key cog to last year's World Championship run.


Was he a key cog? Let's look at the numbers.

Huff's season-long slide -- after the first week of the season, he's never been above .246 -- has hit bottom in July. He's hitting .171 this month (6-for-35 with no home runs, three RBI). Since June 23, he's hitting .206 (13-for-63) with no HR, 8 RBI. He hasn't hit a HR since his three-HR game against St. Louis on June 2.

Here's a comparison between Huff's pre-All-Star numbers this year and last year:


8 HR, 44 RBI, .236 AVG, .290 OBP, .361 SLG.


17 HR, 54 RBI, .295 AVG, .383 OBP, .546 SLG

Huff continued his torrid pace for the first 20 games after the All-Star break last year, hitting .383 (28-for-73) with 6 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBI and a .464 OBP.

But Huff nosedived for the rest of the year, hitting .246 the rest of the way (47-for-191) with 6 HR and 21 RBI. So, his tailspin actually dates back to August 5 of last year. Since then, over essentially a full season, Huff has hit .239 (126-for-526) with 14 HR and 65 RBI -- middling numbers at best for someone who is supposed to be a middle-of-the-order threat.

Huff was instrumental in lifting the Giants into believing they could make a run last year -- and was unquestionably the heart of that team, red thong and all. He was one of my favorites, and I still have hope that he will straighten out his swing, starting with an opposite field stroke. I'd sacrifice home run power if he were to simply focus on driving in runs with alley-to-alley extra base power.

But, it appears that when the burdens and pressures of championship ball were right before him, he has wilted. His slide last year coincided with the Giants' earnest run for the title, and continues to this day as the team plays under the glare of national scrutiny.


Huff told the SF Chron's Henry Schulman in today's nicely written wrap up of the first half that he remembers coming back with great second halves in previous years.

He was probably thinking of 2008, when he had an absolutely dominant second half with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. That's when he went .332 (83-for-250) with 14 HR and 49 RBI. But the truth is, he hit the All-Star break already in stride. His comeback began on May 25 after hitting a nadir of .240. He'd already mounted a 55-for-169 (.325) spurt going into the All-Star break.

So, there's little analogy between 2008 and now, starting with the fact that a) Huff is now three years older and b) he was free to play then without the pressures of pursuing anything other than personal achievements.

Unfortunately, Huff's struggles are more analogous to his 2009 numbers. But even in that sad sack season, he went into the All-Star break with better numbers (11 HR, 56 RBI, .259 AVG). From there, he plummeted in performance, hitting .214 the rest of the way (46-for-215) with only 4 HR and 29 RBI -- most of those numbers with the Detroit Tigers, who had acquired him for a pennant drive.


Let the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes begin. And if Huff shows no sign of a comeback within the first week to 10 days, the Giants might want to consider jump starting the Brandon Belt era.

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