Much has been made about the sustainability of Quintin Berry’s success this year. When he first started slapping the ball around and getting on base, pundits said it was a matter of time before pitchers caught up to this new player. Then, as his OBP stayed north of .330+ and his stolen base rate stayed at 100% the analysts said his regression to the mean would be happening soon. And now, despite his timely RBIs, perfect steals record, solid OBP and exciting defensive play, there are many professional baseball experts who still think that Berry’s bubble will soon burst. Does it really have to?
He emerged as an extra outfielder with speed to help ease the loss of Austin Jackson in late May. All fans and management wanted out of this guy was to not screw up and maybe take an extra base and cover some ground in the spacious Comerica outfield. He was 27 after all, well past the expiration date of most fancy prospects.
“He’s too old,” the experts said as they dismissed him with a wave of their well-manicured hands. “This guy’s just riding a hot streak. Baseball history is littered with them!”
Well, another outfielder made his full-time debut as a 27 year old. He was not known as a prospect, but he had a nice set of wheels and a strange ability to get on base and contribute to his team. Many scoffed at his age and said that the Major League would knock him down a couple pegs and bring his play back to Earth. This, of course, was back in 2003, and several thousand at bats ago, for a Milwaukee Brewers team that finished two games above their Pythagorean win prediction. This outfielder, who stole 43 bases and had an OPS of .822, was Scott Podsednik.
Comparing the two one notices some similarities in their backgrounds and style of play. Berry, like Podsednik, was well-travelled in the minors, playing for a few different organizations. Both had good walk rates and OBP in the minors for several years. Both also piled up stolen bases before reaching the Big Show, with Berry seeming to be a little speedier. Podsednik got his shot and capitalized on it when he was 27, just like Berry seems to be doing. Podsednik did seem to eventually come down to earth a bit in his third season, and has settled down into being a good-not-great player with several teams. This distinction could be attributed to Berry as well.
Berry has found himself this year with the Tigers. He understands his role with the team, and he doesn’t seem to try and play above his talents. Sure, he needs to work on his routes in the outfield and get a bit better at hitting lefties, but this is his first go-around in the majors. He could very well be a speedy catalyst and create a career much like Scott Podsednik’s. Then the argument would be, “How does he fit into the Tigers’ long term plans?”