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C'mon Get Happy!
by Derek Smart
I realize I've been cranky lately, even when things were going well. But now that things are looking a little less rosy again, and with the Cardinals looming on this evening's horizon, I think it's time to take a breather from all things bummer and try to find some rays of light in the darkness. A little sunshine on our shoulders, if you will.
I know it's an old rhetorical method among stat types, and one I've used any number of times myself, but despite the dusty fustiness of the beast I'm going to trot it out again because...well...there's nothing quite like it. Here, for your edification, is a good ol' Player A/Player B comparison:
These are two pretty evenly matched players, one getting on base a little more, while the other has more isolated power. The differences in EQA and WARP are definitely there, but they're relatively small, and in looking closely at those hitting lines, seem to be tied almost entirely to a difference in batting average.
The VORP disparity is decent sized as well, and while some of it is due to Player B spending most of his time at a more offensively inclined position, some of it is due to the factors mentioned above, as well. If it's me, I'd rather have the guy with a little better OBP who's making better contact than the fella with the slight power advantage.
Which, of course, is what the Cubs have, since Player A is Jerry Hairston Jr., and Player B is the gentleman for whom he was traded, Sammy Sosa.
I don't know what's going on with Sosa, but while I would have expected to see his batting average and OBP around where they currently sit, if maybe a little higher, I'll admit I'm shocked at the degree to which his power has declined. There's still some season left for Sammy to right the ship somewhat, but as it stands, the deal that sent him to Baltimore looks a whole lot better than I thought it would in January.
It's only one game, and only one inning, but in light of yesterday's bullpen meltdown, the scoreless, hitless, walkless, two strikeout frame pitched by Scott Williamson on Wednesday night could be a happy sign, indeed.
There were some similar stat lines posted by Joe Borowski before he joined the Cubs earlier this year, so I won't get too excited yet. But, then again, I don't think we saw many quotes like this when poor JoBo was rehabbing:
"I saw him throw [in the bullpen Monday]; he is pretty close," manager Dusty Baker said. "He is throwing the ball great. I was very impressed with his location. And his velocity is good, his breaking ball is good."
Williamson may be a ticking time-bomb of injury, but when he's healthy he's one of the nastiest relievers around, and assuming he's right when he joins the club, he'll be a better addition to the relief corps than anyone the Cubs would be likely to get in trade (okay, Billy Wagner would be better, but I did say "likely").
Whether you love him, hate him, want him to go, or want him to stay, any progress by Corey Patterson is good progress. Whether he's getting closer to helping the team on the field, or helping the team by raising his trade value, moving this gent forward is important to the future of this team.
What he's done in Iowa through last night - go .250/.314/.594 in 32 at bats, with only six strikeouts and five stolen bases - isn't world shattering, but it's a lot closer to the sort of work that will make him useful to somebody. Certainly that power - five of his eight hits have been for extra bases - will get someone interested, particularly if he's able to generate that pop with a supposedly shorter swing with the potential to generate more useful contact.
I don't think we're likely to see anything significant happen in regards to Patterson for a couple of weeks yet - after all, if he really is making a sizeable change to his swing it will take time to iron things out - but rest assured, if he continues to improve, he'll be in somebody's Major League uniform in August.
There. That's all the happy juice I can muster of my own accord for one day. It's the Cardinals this weekend in St. Louis, and things start off with a vicious pitching matchup, as Carlos Zambrano faces Cy Young candidate, Chris Carpenter. If the Cubs can pull this one out, it would be a tremendous tone setter for the series. I wouldn't lay money on it, but hey, a fella can dream, can't he?