Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
South for the Winter
by Derek Smart
Questions about Corey Patterson's offseason plans were continually asked during the last part of the season, but never really answered until this piece appeared last week on the Cubs' official site. Patterson isn't playing winter ball, but that doesn't mean he's taking the time off. Days after the end of the season, he headed down to Mesa with a mission to rebuild his swing from the ground up.
I was among those concerned about Patterson's offseason plans, or the apparent lack thereof, but this looks to me like the right thing to do. If Corey has any chance of success - and by success, I mean as either a Cub player or as part of a trade that returns actual value for the club - he needs to completely retool his swing, and the best way to do that is to take time away from competition to break things down and build his muscle memory to do the things necessary for success without his having to think about it.
If you have to consciously think about where your hands are, how your base is set up, keeping your shoulder in, or any of the other myriad parts to a good swing, you'll fail miserably. By the time your brain is done working, the pitch is already by you. Making the good habits unconscious is crucial, because otherwise when confronted with stress, the body will simply return to what's instinctual, and if that's the bad habits, then you'll get the results we saw all last year.
We'll have to wait to see if Corey's work pays off, and while I'll be skeptical until I see sustained success, I can at least acknowledge that an appropriate plan is being implemented.
Some quick notes about some other baby bears who refuse to hibernate:
Adam Greenberg is in Venezuela where he's not only chronicling his experiences for the MLB website, he's gotten off to a solid start, hitting .286/.359/.429 with a triple and a homer in 35 at bats. After getting beaned in his first Major League at bat, and the length of time it took for him to get back on the field, simply playing is a positive, so while I hope he does well and gives the club a reason to look hard at him for a reserve role next year, I'm just glad he's out there.
Angel Guzman looks to have gotten back on track, throwing five innings of one run ball on Monday, allowing four hits, a walk, and striking out six. There are a lot of wild-cards for the Cubs this coming year, but Guzman may be the wildest of all. A contribution from him can't be counted on, not with his injury history, but the mere idea of having a healthy Guzman available for action at some point during the season is enough to make me drool a little.
John Koronka has still not allowed a run. I'll pause for a moment while that sinks in. He's only thrown nine innings, so like before, sample size caveats apply, but he's only given up six hits to go with four walks and ten strikeouts. The walks I get - four per nine doesn't shock me a bit based on what we witnessed during the season - but even accounting for the fact that he's mostly throwing to minor leaguers, the hits and strikeouts are completely out of character.
Again, I wish I had some video to be able to evaluate what beyond luck is spurring this run of odd effectiveness, but in lieu of that, I suppose I'll just have to wait until spring comes to see for myself if what's happening is a new level of ability, or simply a blip on the statistical radar.
Ronny Cedeno appears to be on the roster of Los Tigres de Aragua of the Venezuelan winter league, but I have yet to see any evidence that he's played. This is one of the folks to watch this offseason, since his performance could influence a lot of what happens during the winter and spring.
Felix Pie is off to a solid start for Licey of the Dominican winter league, as the last I saw he was 6 for 14 with a double, triple, and home run. This is a pretty rough league to get updated stats on, so this has likely changed in the last few days. Still, it's encouraging to see Pie apparently feeling no ill effects from the ankle injury that kept him from being called up along with Matt Murton during the regular season. Like Cedeno, his performance this winter could have a significant bearing on the Cubs' offseason plans.
UPDATE: Pie went 1 for 4 with a double last night, which puts him at 7 for 18 with two doubles, a triple, and home run thus far.
That's it for now. More when I've got it, and if all goes according to plan, next week should begin the Assuming the Position series where I'll break down the year that was and the possibilities for the year that will be on a position by position basis.