Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Leading off, For the Cubs...

Number 20, Corey Patterson (son...son...son)

An interesting article on today regarding several Cubs, one of which (hopefully you guessed from the title) is little Corey Patterson.

For the benefit of my faithful readers, I've clipped the relevant passages from the article mentioned above:

Top of the order: Corey Patterson met with Brett Butler this winter and discussed the philosophy of being a good leadoff hitter. Butler had a career .377 on-base percentage, including a personal high .413 in 1992 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"All we talked about was keeping things simple and narrowing your zone up and knowing what you're looking for in certain counts and certain situations," Patterson said. "It's not really rocket science -- and sometimes we make it hard. That was it. It was about focus and concentration and knowing what to do throughout the course of the season.

"It's a tough position," Patterson said. "At home, you're going to get up four times a game and on the road probably five. That's a lot of plate appearances. You've got to take care of yourself and [know] who to listen to. To me, there aren't a whole lot of great leadoff hitters in the game. He's one of them. He knows when to push the gas pedal, when to back off. We had a good conversation and it definitely helped me."

Patterson has been working with hitting coach Gene Clines on his approach this spring, and Baker said he was happy with the progress by the center fielder, who had 16 bunt base hits last season.

"I think I did a good job bunting last year," Patterson said.

Couple the above with this passage from this Sun Times article:

IN THE LEAD: Baker said Todd Hollandsworth has the edge on newcomer Jerry Hairston Jr. to be the Opening Day left fielder. That means center fielder Corey Patterson is likely to bat leadoff.

"Hairston hasn't played much outfield,'' Baker said. "He's more of a second baseman, so Hollandsworth has the inside track on most of the playing time. That's not a surprise. It's a matter of keeping him healthy and strong.''

That's a lot of info so I'll sum up. Basically, this negates my entire entry regarding Hairston leading off...or playing left...or existing in anything beyond the peripheral vision of Fearless Leader (I mean the manager of the Cubs, not of Boris and Natasha).

There is some encouraging stuff here. Patterson seems to be getting advice from the right person - sort of. Butler was very good at getting on base, which is something Corey really needs to work on. However, in this little snippet, at no point does he mention getting on base. He mentiones not getting tired out, bunting more (and Butler was the absolute master of bunting) and in yet another article, this time in the Trib, he mentions not striking out as much. None of these are bad things in a vacuum (hell, none of these are bad regardless of the Barometer) but they sort of skirt the big issue. Corey's fast, he's powerful, he's younger than me...but he doesn't get on base much. And that, my friends, is the true key to being a truly great leadoff hitter.

Oh, and one more thing on this subject: If Corey loses his power for the sake of a couple of strikeouts, I will club Baker to death (just kidding, I'm a passivist, I would never do that. But I might write a snippy letter to the Tribune). I was always a big Brett Butler fan, but he hit like a little girl. Patterson has the potential to put up a long string of 30-30 seasons.

The other part of the article deals with Hairston, Hollandsworth, and DuBois (who? what? who's that?). Dusty, in all his wisdom, promised Hollandsworth the majority of the playing time in left before the Cubs acquired Hairston. He has followed that up by spending the spring poining out reasons why Holly's the only choice for the job. To wit:

*clears throat*

item 1) DuBois is a sloppy defender and poor baserunner (after watching Alou I thought that was a requisit for the job)
item2) Hairston is a second baseman (although he played mostly in left last year).

So now Hollandsworth (he of the .336 lifetime on base percentage and having only played more than 100 games 4 times in his career) is going to swallowing up 80% of the left field AB's. And given that Walker's been promised the majority of games at second, Hairston and DuBois are going to have plenty of time on their hands. They've got the time - and so if they have the dedication - they could become one hell of Pinocchle partnership.

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