Baseball Toaster Cub Town
You're All Going Down!
2005-07-08 09:41
by Derek Smart

Here's a relevant quote from the end of my post yesterday:

Here's to a solid first game victory, followed by a surprise mashing of the Braves' finest, and all in spite of a full day of rest for Mr. Lee. I know it's not Christmas, but I'll take my present early, thanks.

Looks like my present was a lump of coal. Of course, it's nothing compared to what one Mr. Corey Patterson got in his stocking:

With their season slipping away and no signs of life in the clubhouse, the Cubs began a shakeup Thursday with the demotions of Corey Patterson and Jason Dubois to Triple-A Iowa.

Dubois needs at bats, hasn't been getting them, and has looked bad of late when he has, due in large part to the league quickly figuring out that anything that's not a fastball on the inner half is nearly impossible for poor Jason to hit. So that's a simple enough move to make, and one that deserves little comment beyond a nod of the head.

The big news, of course, is the demotion of Patterson, the man who was, for such a long time, the jewel of the system, but who, beyond intermittent flashes of talent, has been a huge disappointment during his time in Chicago.

The tone of comments from the front office implies that the club is doing this to help Corey work some things out. Here's Hendry from the Sun-Times piece on the subject:

"We still think the Corey that we are going to get is still in there," Hendry said. "Right now, he's not that Corey. He is probably trying too hard. You can see in his face he's trying too hard, and it's hard to fix it in the middle of a game in the big leagues."

"When you do that in this game, sometimes it goes the other way on you. We have a good, honest relationship with him and have known him a long time. For his own good and our good long-term it seems like the right thing to do. It'll be good for him."

Do I think the Cubs really want to get Corey turned around? Of course, if for no other reason to get his trade value up to a reasonable level. It's indicative of how far his value has fallen that a player with his physical tools was able to pass through waivers, as he had to in order to be sent down.

Granted, interested teams may have had roster size issues, but it seems to me that if Patterson was actually wanted by anyone, that simply having to pay his remaining salary for the year (approximately $1.4M) would be more attractive than giving up talent. That it apparently wasn't speaks volumes.

Add in the fact that, even with his recent injury, Felix Pie's performance this season and last has begun to dramatically shorten the Cubs' decision period regarding the future of center field, and I think that Patterson's trip to Iowa is likely to be his final stop in this organization.

I don't know where he'll go, or what the team will get for him, but unless something extraordinary happens during his time in the minors, all signs that I see point to the club punting on the career of Corey Patterson.

It's a shame, and I wish it hadn't come to this, because Corey seems nice enough and he does have a lot of talent, but whether it was his own stubbornness, the organization's inability to clearly assess and teach to his needs, or some combination of the two, it's been clear for a while that the pair don't belong together.

Divorce is never pretty, but sometimes it's necessary, and I think this separation will teach both sides that they're better off apart. Maybe absence will make the heart grow fonder, but in this case, I'll believe it when I see it.


As for the games themselves, I was only able to see some of the second contest, and there's only one item I have the energy to remark on at the moment, and even in that I was beaten to the punch by reader, Todd S. His comment attached to yesterday's post:

How can you miss THERE with an 0-2 pitch?!

He's referring, of course, to the spectacularly bad ball that Roberto Novoa threw to Andruw Jones in the eighth, with mashtastically unfortunate results.

The pitch can be questioned on multiple levels, the first being the obvious bad execution. Michael Barrett had set up high and inside, actually getting partially out of his crouch to receive the ball. What was thrown was over the middle of the plate and just above the knees, a fantastic spot to drive the ball. That's missing by a huge margin, and that's all on Novoa.

However, one can also question calling a fastball at all. Jones had looked bad on breaking balls all series, and it's been a good way to get him out his entire career. To not have Novoa, who has a nice slider when it's working, at least attempt to drop one outside is tantamount to malpractice.

Yes, most of the blame goes to Novoa for being unable to get a fastball anywhere near its intended target, but Mr. Barrett's bad pitch call deserves some of your opprobrium as well.


So, it seems we embark on a new era today, sans Corey Patterson, and with the hope that Matt Murton and Adam Greenberg can bring some of their energy and skills with them from West Tenn. If nothing else, they come packing hope, which I'm sure will be a welcome addition to this club which seems more and more hopeless by the day.

2005-07-08 09:58:03
1.   ChiJim
On the home run let's also remember to put some the blame squarely on Busty's shoulders. He wasted Wuertz when they were down 6-0 in game one leaving Novoa to set up in game two. While Novoa's ERA was only around 2.5 before the outing yesterday he had also allowed 30 baserunners in 14 innings. A Major League manager should recognize that the 2+ baserunners per inning is more indicitive of a reliever's performance than a luck induced low ERA.
2005-07-08 10:58:44
2.   Rob G

Patterson clearing waivers is a formality. If a team put a claim on him, then the Cubs could have revoked him and just kept him on the 25 man roster. No team is going to block that though, since they want to do the same with some of their players (i.e Austin Kearns)

2005-07-08 13:50:36
3.   thecubsfan
Does passing thru waivers now mean the Cubs would be able to trade him after the deadline without being blocked, or does he have to repass thru waivers after July 31st?

This all kinda seems a lot like the Marlon Byrd situation, so I'm hoping we don't trade Corey for Endy Chavez.

2005-07-08 18:15:38
4.   Doug
Eric Karabell over at ESPN says, "Demoting Corey Patterson to the minor leagues is a clueless move by the Cubs." Unfortunately, it's an ESPN Insider article (as is about 90% of the content on friggin these days).

Anyone with an Insider subscription that can summarize his reasoning?

2005-07-09 02:38:54
5.   Whitebacon
Karabell probably had a lot invested in him in a fantasy league.

Corey's Clueless Cubs
Yesterday, I wrote about the Red Sox and why Curt Schilling could succeed as a closer. Feedback from Red Sox fans was good, very positive.

Today, it's time to write about another national, popular, sometimes cursed team and another interesting, controversial decision. Only this time the move is mystifying and I'm not as upbeat.

Every team, apparently, wants to be like the Braves. That makes sense; the last time Atlanta did not win its division, B.J. Upton was starting kindergarten. So the Cubs got swept in a doubleheader last night in Atlanta, by a team with 10 rookies, and Dusty Baker, in his infinite wisdom, decided the smart thing to do was demote Corey Patterson to the minor leagues.

Sure, blame the 25-year-old speedster for your team being four games under .500. Was Patterson struggling? No doubt he was. He hit .157 in June, and was 3-for-18 so far in July. He's not a leadoff hitter, despite Baker's insistence on hitting him there, but he wasn't much of a power hitter for the last six weeks, either.

What I think happened here is Baker saw young Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur smack a three-run homer in the eighth for his first major-league hit and decided, well, we can do that! Let's bring up some kids nobody knows! Look at the Braves: Kelly Johnson is turning into a nice player, and really has far better stats in OBP and slugging than Patterson (because he takes walks, which I'll get to). Adam LaRoche shouldn't be hitting fourth or fifth for anyone, but he's on a 100-RBI pace anyway. How do they do it? Pete Orr and Brian McCann are hitting .300. Ryan Langerhans and Wilson Betemit are productive. Hey, we can do it, too!

But there are differences here. The Braves are using 10 rookies on their 25-man roster out of necessity. Chipper Jones and Brian Jordan are on the disabled list. Raul Mondesi was a joke. The middle infield, until recently, was underwhelming. Don't ask about the pitching staff, with the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 starters all injured. The Braves, through all this, are a playoff team.

The Cubs, meanwhile, continue to make senseless moves with no apparent direction. This team's problems appear to have been on the mound, with the injuries to Mark Prior and Kerry Wood and a shaky bullpen. At least that's what gets blamed. Sure, that hasn't helped. But this team's losing because of its offense, because despite having a guy batting .377 in the middle of the order and being a legit Triple Crown threat, there's nobody setting the table.

As always, some random thoughts:

• Patterson should never have been leading off in the first place, and that's Baker's fault. Who should have? Well, Jerry Hairston Jr., for as woefully average as he might be, does have a .367 on-base percentage. He walks a bit, and unlike Patterson, doesn't strike out. As a team, the Cubs have a .312 on-base percentage in the leadoff spot, and that stinks. In the NL, only the Marlins and Mets are worse, and when Juan Pierre starts to hit, Florida will score more runs. The Mets have realized the error of their Jose Reyes ways (and nobody's sending him to the minors, despite his age). Hairston, in 36 games leading off, has a .384 OBP there. Just play him every day and lead him off. It appears that will happen now, but in center field. I would have chosen left field, now that Todd Walker is back to man second.

• Neifi Perez is not a good hitter. He has tricked everyone, and his numbers are slipping, as expected. Not only have the Cubs not put people on base leading off, but their No. 2 hitters have a .286 OBP! Perez has a .314 OBP in 44 games hitting second. So the Cubs are 27th in the majors in leadoff OBP, and 29th in OBP for No. 2 hitters (only Pittsburgh is worse). Gee, Dusty, do you think this is why you don't score runs?

• Derrek Lee, by the way, has 25 homers and 67 RBI and leads the bigs in slugging. Remember that season when Carlos Delgado nearly knocked in 100 runs by the break? Lee is actually getting cheated, big time. If he wins two-thirds of the Triple Crown but falls just short in RBI, he can blame Dusty. I just found this stat this morning, and it's incredible. Look at the RBI leaders; they obviously get many chances to knock in runs, right? Well, not really. Lee has only 119 at-bats with runners on base, which ranks him tied for 94th in baseball (Miguel Cabrera has 177 such at-bats). However, Lee has 67 RBI, only 10 off the ML lead and six behind NL leader Carlos Lee.

But look at how many more chances those guys get! The Cubs are cheating Derrek Lee. He should have about 100 RBI by now. I'll list a few names who have more at-bats than Lee with runners on base: Cristian Guzman, Jason Phillips, Aaron Boone, Angel Berroa and every regular starter for the Red Sox except Jason Varitek, who's only two AB back. Lee is hitting a crazy .370 with runners on; if he had the chances Edgar Renteria had with men on (Edgar's fifth in baseball in AB with men on), and hit the same average, he actually would have 100 RBI by now.

But Lee doesn't -- because nobody is ever on base for him.

• The middle of the Cubs' order, actually, has been quite potent. Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Jeromy Burnitz are doing their jobs. Michael Barrett is fine at catcher, and actually could have made the All-Star team. Todd Hollandsworth gets picked on a lot, but he's not embarrassing himself. He's a fourth outfielder. Perez should be hitting eighth.

• What about the kids the Cubs called up to be their Kelly Johnsons? Adam Greenberg and Matt Murton are the new kids at Wrigley, but I don't know whether they'll play. The Cubs also demoted Jason Dubois, for more obvious reasons. I'd think Baker, a noted favorite of veterans, would go with Hollandsworth in left and Hairston in center. Greenberg can play center field, but he hasn't hit for much power. Murton has, but he was in Double-A. It's a stretch to compare these fellas with Francoeur, a top prospect in Atlanta's system. However, and we should give the Cubbies some credit here, each of these outfielders has plate discipline and speed. Just like Johnson. If either hits, he could stick and become fantasy relevant.

• So back to Patterson. What should the Cubs do with him? Well, Patterson's biggest problem is making contact. He can be an electric player when he hits the ball, and of course he can run. Baker confused speed with being able to lead off. Patterson's 83 strikeouts rank tied for fifth in baseball. The people ahead of him all hit for power, but they also walk. Mark Bellhorn leads in K's, and he's another problem, but at least he takes a walk and has his deficiencies hidden by the top-scoring team in baseball. Richie Sexson, Adam Dunn and Brad Wilkerson also take walks and have power. Patterson had 16 walks in half a season. Only three players in the top 40 in strikeouts have fewer walks than that: Alfonso Soriano, a well-documented hacker who manages to overcome it, and Dallas McPherson and Berroa, who can't. McPherson will walk eventually, I think. He is just a rookie. Patterson isn't, though he hits like it.

Why do we harp on walks so much, or the ability to avoid strikeouts? Put the ball in play more and good things happen occasionally. Errors get made. Runners get moved up. You get on by fielder's choice and you can steal a base, score a run. Strike out and you just walk back to the bench.

Patterson has been a Cub much of this decade. He was a regular player in 2002. By now, he should be improving. But I don't know whether a stint in the minors will help. And we must point out that despite the nasty batting average, Patterson was on a pace to reach 21 home runs and 23 steals. As bad as things got, do you know how many players are on a pace for those homers and steals? Four players in baseball that have as many as 12 steals have double-digit home runs. I think you've heard of Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Brian Roberts and Reggie Sanders.

• What would I do with Patterson? I'd leave him in the lineup and bat him sixth or seventh. Teams don't need OBP freaks hitting there; they need guys to knock runs in because the middle-of-the-order guys also get on base. Patterson had 33 at-bats in the No. 7 hole this year, and although it's way too small a sample, he did hit five extra-base hits in that time. As the leadoff hitter, he had seven extra-base hits in 119 at-bats.

• Two other problems with Patterson: He wasn't hitting lefties, an affliction quite a few lefty hitters have, and he wasn't hitting well deep in the count. Neither of these is shocking, or easily solved. Patterson's batting average when hitting the first pitch was .311. On 0-1 counts, he was hitting .452 with four home runs. The Cubs were trying to get him to be more patient, see more pitches, but instead of that resulting in walks, Patterson was just striking out. After an 0-1 count, he had 60 strikeouts and two walks, and a .190 average. For comparison, Hairston, after an 0-1 count, has a .271 average. Lee, by the way, hits .376 after an 0-1 count. He's just in another world.

OK, let's sum it up, because this is, after all, a fantasy blog, and you want to know the fantasy implications here. Well, this is all important information, really, and it goes to show that if Patterson slightly improves in certain areas, he'll become more valuable to the Cubs, and in fantasy. I don't know when Patterson will be back in the majors. Maybe the Cubs want to give him a wake-up call, as the Royals did with Berroa last season. Maybe the Cubs think he can straighten out his swing and be a bopper upon return. Maybe the Cubs are about to send Patterson to the Yankees for Tony Womack and a pitcher, who knows? Nothing would surprise me.

But Patterson cannot be forgotten by us. Last year, he hit 24 home runs and stole 32 bases. Before the season, I labeled six players who have some chance at reaching 30-30 this season. The list, in no particular order, was Patterson, Carlos Beltran, Abreu, Soriano, Alex Rodriguez and Mike Cameron. A bunch of others could as well, but it would have been very surprising: Hunter, Coco Crisp, Aaron Rowand and even Vladimir Guerrero. So Patterson belongs in an exclusive group.

You can't drop him (he'll be back in the majors soon). You can't trade him (good luck getting even 20-20 value at this point). You can't cry (well, you can, but it won't help). You just have to be patient.

2005-07-09 14:21:29
6.   Doug
Thanks, Whitebacon. I'd have to agree with your assessment. He trashes the Cubs for sending Corey down and then trashes Corey for being such a poor hitter and failing to improve himself over the years. Well, what did he expect the Cubs to do?!? I like how he says Hairston should lead off while Patterson bats 6th or 7th. Um, right. And should we put Hairston in at 2B and put Walker on the bench then?

Me thinks someone forgot to replace his fantasy baseball hat with his writer's hat before sitting down at the keyboard.

2005-07-11 07:49:58
7.   rynox
Just in case the importance of the #1 & #2 hitters hasn't been pointed out enough...

Between Todd Walker & Hairston, they scored 5 of the Cubs 9 runs yesterday.

This is why the Neifi!-Patterson combination didn't work.

Preaching to the chior, I know.

Anyways, just found this on the rumor wires:

Look for Tampa Bay to sign reliever Joe Borowski, released by the Cubs last month, a move which sets the stage for the Devil Rays to trade away Danys Baez, says the Tampa Tribune.

So what did the Cubs end up doing with Borowski? He was designated, but I never heard anything after that. End up in the minors I presume?

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