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Lee for Choi Trade, May Analysis

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Cubs Win, Cubs Win, Cubs Win, Holy Cow! The Cubs broke their five game losing streak today and beat the Pirates 12-1. The final score was a bit deceptive as the game was tied 1-1 at the start of the seventh, but the Cubs scored 3 in the seventh, 1, in the eigth, and 7 in the ninth.

Zambrano picked up the win, throwing six innings, allowing one run, and striking out eight. However, Zambrano also gave up eight hits, three walks, and hit three batters. The fact that Zambrano allowed only one run while averaging 2.33 runners per inning is nothing short of miraculous.

In the four game series, the Cubs' pitchers hit 10 batters (Clement 3, Mitre 2, Jimmy Anderson 2, and Zambrano 3), while the Pirates hit one (Mike Johnston). Of course, Johnston was the only pitcher ejected. After lobbying the umps for three games Lloyd McClendon (Pirates manager) finally got the umpires to issue a warning to both teams. Johnston then promptly hit a batter in the ninth getting himself and McClendon ejected. The series also featured benches emptying twice, although no punches were thrown.

Over the past two days, Derrek Lee has batted 4 for 10 with 3 runs scored and 6 RBI. As Lee warms up, I keep hoping that Lee's reputation of being a slow starter, who really gets going in June is accurate. I noted last week that Lee's swing was looking better, and maybe its starting to pay off (although I ought to mention there was a 1-20 stretch in the last week). Anyhow, with Sosa still out due to injury, the Cubs could sure use some extra thump in the lineup.

At the end of April, I wrote about Hee Seop Choi's fast start, and predicted that his production would fall off. (Click here to see the Hee Seop Choi thread) Now that it is the end of May, its time to revisit that prediction, and evaluate the D. Lee for Choi trade.

Derrek Lee2445125272040.263.350.433
Hee Seop Choi2634611272443.254.377.560
Hee Seop - April141809181217.295.419.738
Hee Seop - May12166291226.219.404.342

* monthly stats are through 5/29 game

The two firstbasemen are pretty well matched offensively. Choi has slightly better offensive numbers, but Lee's stellar defense more than makes up the difference. After two months, the biggest difference between the two players is that Choi earns $310,000 while Lee is paid $6,166,667. Still, I am witholding a preliminary judgment on who "won" the trade, (although through two months, the Marlins clearly have comparable value and a fatter wallet).

While Choi's production drop wasn't as drastic as I envisioned, (I figured the strikeouts would really balloon as pitchers exploited those 'gaping holes' in Hee Seop's swing.) I don't expect his numbers to be near his April production again, or at least until next April. On the otherhand, by all accounts, Lee's production will improve as we move into the "hot" months.

In the long run, I expect Hee Seop Choi will "figure it out" and develop into a Raffy Palmeiro-esque hitter. (As you all might know, I'm like Darren Baker, I really like Hee Seop.) Sure wish the Cubs coulda kept him, but D. Lee's no slouch, gotta love the glove.

By winning today, the Cubs avoided falling into last place, and instead climbed into a tie for third. With the Reds losing, the Cubs are now 2.5 back of Cincy, 1 back of Houston, and tied with St. Louis.

Mark Prior threw in what was hopefully his final rehab start at AAA Iowa. He struck out 10, threw 79 pitches, and gave up 2 solo home runs in 5.3 innings. The news out of Iowa is positive, and I am looking forward to a possible Prior start about June 5th or so.

Sportscenter ran a nice piece about the NL Central discussing the fact that all of the teams are above .500. Both Harold Reynolds (whom I really like) and John Kruk (an ignoramus who just takes time away from Reynolds and Rob Dibble) predicted that all five teams would finish the season above .500. I disagree with both analysts, and I believe Pittsburgh and Milwaukee will both finish the season below 81 wins. Neither Pittsburgh nor the Brewers have had any serious injuries this year, and will undoubtably have to deal with at least one major injury. While all of the teams in the Central are pretty good, the Brew Crew and the Bucs just don't have the depth.

Finally, congratulations to Buddy Rice on winning the Indy 500 today. I was disappointed that the race was rain shortened, but winning the race, the pole position, and the pit crew competition suggested that Rice was pretty dominant. Well done.

Posted by Byron at May 30, 2004 12:00 AM | Bookmark and Share | BallHype: hype it up!
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