The Tribe Tracker monitors players across the Pittsburgh Pirates organization who appeared in games with the Indianapolis Indians during the 2013 season, as well as prospects who may suit up for the Tribe during the 2014 campaign.
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Capsule 5: 12/3
This week features “The Hit Collector” Matt Hague, the Indians all-time leader in base hits during the Victory Field Era (1996).
1B — Matt Hague
Rightfully dubbed “The Hit Collector,” first baseman Matt Hague continued his tear at the plate from the 2013 regular season into the Dominican Winter Leagues. The slugger began offseason action with hits in each of his first five games and seven total base knocks in that span, before turning in one of just four hitless efforts this winter. Although Hague saw limited action with just 64 at-bats through 17 games, he concluded his stint in the Dominican with a .313 average with 20 hits, four doubles, two home runs and 10 RBI. The Hit Collector also coaxed five free passes to post an impressive .362 on-base percentage, which would have ranked second among all league first baseman if Hague had enough at-bats to qualify.
The infielder’s stellar winter was just another “typical” performance for the Tribe’s first baseman, as Hague has now produced a yearly batting average with the Indians of .309 (165-for-534), .283 (104-for-367) and .285 (153-for-536) from 2009-13, respectively. During that stretch, Hague led the International League in total hits in both 2011 and 2013 to become the first IL batter to lead the league in base knocks in two different seasons since 1985-86. With 422 total base knocks in that three-year span, The Hit Collector currently boasts nearly 100 more base hits than any other Indians batter in the current Victory Field Era (1996).
If Hague doesn’t break Spring Training as part of the Pirates’ 2014 Opening Day roster, the Indianapolis stalwart could possibly return to his role as the Tribe’s everyday first baseman and team captain. The Indians, of course, would be thrilled to welcome back such a consistent bat in their lineup, and Hague, at the individual level, will have the opportunity to pursue his third Most Valuable Player award for Indianapolis. The Hit Collector enters the 2014 campaign as one of just four players in franchise history to win two team MVP awards (2011 and 2013), and with another season of action for the Indians, could become the first Tribe player ever to earn the accolade in three separate years.