Baseball Toaster Cub Town
2005-04-16 14:59
by Alex Ciepley

At what point does an exclamation point shift from being an ironic, derisive form of punctuation into a celebratory accent? Derek and I have, for a while now, referred to Neifi Perez as Neifi!, in homage to the popular spelling of Seattle's Ichiro!, a truly magnificent player. Is it possible that the slight implied in typing out N-e-i-f-i-! has inspired our cruddy utility infielder to turn from Superscrub to Superstar?

Since joining the Cubs last year, the shortstop who is arguably one of the least valuable offensive players in baseball history* has donned his red cape and been one of the most productive players on the team.

         NEIFI! AS A CUB
82 16 3 .378 .400 .549 .949
So what if he's basically hitting like Pete Rose on crack, or ludes, or crystal meth, or whatever the boys do these days. Neifi's potent combination of Death-by-Singles, No Walks, and A Couple Homers has been an entirely unexpected boon, especially in light of a certain other "N"-named shortstop's shortcomings to this point in the season.

I still giggle every time he comes to the plate, but when Neifi hit his two-run dinger last night, I realized that it's unfair to keep beating up on a guy who's played extremely well for the Cubs so far. What if Neifi + Dusty is magic? Are the pair like Scotty and Michael? Batman and Robin? Oreos and icy cold milk? Has Baker's kiss turned the toady Neifi! into the dashing Prince Neifi!?

I wouldn't hold my breath or read too many fairy tales. Neifi Perez still stinks. I don't want him to be counted on to pinch hit off the bench. I don't even really want him on the Cubs, period. But this is just a reminder that even though Perez stinks, he hasn't yet stunk as a Cub. Not one bit. And that's something that's worthy of the occasional exclamation point.

* Fewest RCAA since 1900
1 Ski Melillo -355
2 Tommy Thevenow -351
3 Bill Bergen -312
4 Tim Foli -309
5 Larry Bowa -307
6 Alfredo Griffin -306
T7 Don Kessinger -305
T7 Ozzie Guillen -305
9 Neifi Perez -302
10 Ed Brinkman -300
source: Sabermetic Baseball Encyclopedia

2005-04-16 18:17:23
1.   nate
Funny, I just posted a similar sentiment on the comments at TCR about how maybe there's something about being a Cub that makes Neifi! a good hitter. Are we still allowed to rag on Macias?
2005-04-16 19:20:55
2.   jello
Would it be unfair of me to laugh at Ozzie Guillen for being worse than Neifi!, just cuz he happens to be managing the South siders?
2005-04-17 09:06:19
3.   Rich Lederer
Good post, both in terms of the observation itself plus the attendant writing.
2005-04-17 11:05:56
4.   cubsnerd
Yeah I thought last year he put up good enough numbers and had enough AB's as a Cub to say fairly confidently that at worst he was swinging the bat well enough to be a pinch hitting option off the bench. Although I still believed that it was too big of a gamble to assume this hitting resurgence was going to carry over to this year to use him as a first choice off the bench. Especially since we have other viable options with a much greater upside.

But since that experiment has been tried and it seems to suggest Neifi is swinging the bat as good as the second half of last year, we might as well consider him a changed man until he proves us otherwise.

2005-04-17 20:12:07
5.   Sandus
I'm not fooled. Talk to me in 50 games...
2005-04-18 07:49:24
6.   Zoompet
Remember Macias last season

April 071/071/071 (14 ABs)
May 340/340/491 (53 ABs)
June 219/265/375 (32 ABs)
July 314/324/429 (35 ABs)
Aug 143/250/143 (21 ABs)
Sept 314/314/429 (35 ABs)
Oct 250/400/250 (4 ABs)

Total 268/292/376 (194 AB)

Even a bad hitter can have a good stretch. So I agree with Alex lets applaud Neifi's accomplishments, but hope the Dusty is not fooled into thinking that this leopard his changed his spots.

2005-04-18 08:25:01
7.   ChemSteve
Great post, Alex, you answered my comment from Derek's post a few days ago in regard to Neifi's stats as a Cub. Wow, I knew they'd be decent, but not that good. I wonder how many Giants fans have read this post, if they do I bet their jaws drop.

Maybe the trick with light-hitting shortstops is to just trade them, the change of scenery must do them good. Besides Neifi, I refer to exhibit B, former Cub whipping boy Alex S. Gonzalez, now a Devil Ray. Small sample sizes, I know, but he's had a good start to 2005, hitting /.355/.429/.484/.912 BA/OBP/SLG/OPS. Crazy. As I Cub fan I'm glad David Eckstein is NOT following this pattern himself yet...

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