This week the Cleveland Indians signed former first round draft picks Austin Kearns and Travis Buck to one-year contracts. Kearns, who posted a .746 OPS in 461 plate appearances for the Tribe and New York Yankees in 2010, signed to a tune of $1.3 million and figures to be the team’s fourth outfielder in 2011 behind Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore, and Michael Brantley. A former first round pick of the Reds in 1998, Kearns, now 30, has never panned out to be the well-rounded hitter that was supposed to complement Adam Dunn in the Cincinnati lineup. In fact, he’s been the exact opposite.
Here are some staggering statistics regarding Kearns’ inability to hit when behind in the count, especially with two strikes:
- Career batting average after 0-1 count: .202 (1,690 plate appearances)
- Career batting average after 0-2 count: .142 (640 plate appearances)
- Career batting average after 1-2 count: .152 (990 plate appearances)
- Career batting average after 2-2 count: .164 (945 plate appearances)
Overall, Kearns is a .159 lifetime hitter (.510 OPS) in two strike counts, and has struck out in 798 of those 1,877 plate appearances. In comparison, he is a career .297 hitter (1.000 OPS) in 1,558 plate appearances when ahead in the count.
The Indians also signed former Oakland A’s prospect Travis Buck to minor league deal that also includes an invitation to Spring Training. Drafted by A’s in the first round of the 2005 draft, Buck put together a promising rookie campaign in 2007 when he hit .288/.377/.474 in 334 plate appearances.
Since then, however, he has been plagued by an assortment of injuries – including post-concussions syndrome – and has appeared in only 88 games over the past three seasons. To his credit, Buck, 27, has continued to battle in the minor leagues – .298/.364/.463 in 121 at bats for Triple-A Sacramento in 2010 – despite being relegated to AAAA status. If he can stay healthy, the left-handed hitting Buck could be a much more valuable fourth outfielder than Kearns.