The Cubs believed Bryan LaHair would produce in the big leagues if given a chance. The first baseman rewarded their faith by putting together a monster April, hitting .390 with five home runs and 14 RBI.
Four of LaHairs five homers have either tied a game or given the Cubs a lead, and that sense of calm when everyones watching could be a preview for how he will handle success.
I live for those moments, LaHair said. I just stay consistent with each at-bat. I dont let any at-bat overwhelm me. Pitch to pitch, all I do is try to get good balls to hit and hit them hard every at-bat.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. As long as Im consistent doing that, Ill be all right.
Dale Sveums relationship with Prince Fielder didnt matter that much in the end, and Theo Epsteins meeting with the agent for Albert Pujols during the winter meetings was mostly about Rodrigo Lopez.
The Cubs werent prepared to do a megadeal.
Sveum, a former Brewers hitting coach, broke down LaHairs mechanics and saw the potential to do some damage.
Heres the scouting report the Cubs manager gave just before the games were about to begin in spring training:
I knew he had power, obviously, because of his numbers, but hes got tremendous leverage through the strike zone, Sveum said. I think hes the kind of guy that can run into 10 home runs a year just because of the leverage.
What I mean by that is he can hit home runs when hes not perfect, when hes off-balance, whether its a changeup or a breaking ball down.
The bat stays through the strike zone and the back side works correctly to where you can get a lot of home runs when it doesnt look like a prototypically perfect swing.
One reason why the Cubs are 8-15 is the power outage throughout the lineup. The last time they hit just nine homers in a month was August of 1981.
The last Cub to account for more than half of the teams home runs in a month was Sammy Sosa in August of 2001, when he hit 17 of 32.
Power usually comes later in the year, LaHair said. You never know with power. (It) comes and goes. We got guys on this team that have power and Im sure theyre going to hit for power.
I dont really read into that kind of stuff.
People should question whether LaHair will really keep this up, and the sample sizes are way too small at the major-league level.
Top prospect Anthony Rizzo is coming fast to play first base at Wrigley Field, though the Cubs have to be curious what it would be like to have both left-handed hitters in the same lineup.
There is also the possibility that the Pacific Coast League MVP who hit 38 homers last season and crushed the ball over the winter in Venezuela is starting to figure it out.
By 29, youve had a lot of at-bats and youve learned a lot of things about hitting, Sveum said. Thats about when most guys are coming into their own anyway.