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Wood hurt, Cubs underdogs for Central Title

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Yesterday, the Cubs became underdogs in the NL Central. The team appears to be near its breaking point as injuries are taking their toll. Kerry Wood left the game in the second inning with a tight triceps muscle, and all of The Cubdom is nervously awaiting word of how serious the injury will be. Mark Prior is out until at least June 3rd, which leaves the Cubs with a month where we may be starting Clement, Zambrano, Maddux, Mitre, and Glendon Rusch. Suddenly, baseball's best rotation looks pretty average.

In Los Angeles, the Cubs lost 3-7 to the Dodgers. Kerry Wood pitched 2 innings, letting in three runs, before leaving the game with his sore arm. Glendon Rusch came on in long relief and allowed 4 runs in three innings. The Cubs offense managed a run in the second when Michael Barrett scored from first on a Ramon Martinez single. In the sixth, Todd Walker led off with a double, and scored when Juan Encarnacion bobbled a Sammy Sosa single in right field. In the ninth inning, Moises Alou scored on an Aramis Ramirez double.

Meanwhile, Roger Clemens and the Houston Astros won again. The Rocket is now 7-0, and the Astros have opened up a three game lead over the Cubs.

The offense is continuing to struggle badly. Last night, Corey Patterson looked awful, hacking away at first pitches with seemingly no idea where the pitch was going, what it was going to be, or what he wanted to do with it. C-Pat has struggled lately and has a .209 average in May, with a .302 OBP. Furthermore, since going 5 for 6 on April 21, in a 12-1 win at Pittsburgh, Patterson is hitting an even .200 with a .307 OBP over a stretch of 17 games. This poor performance in the Cubs second spot is hampering the Cubs offense. In those 17 games, the Cubs are averaging 3.82 runs per game. Before April 21, the Cubs offense was scoring 6.47 runs per game and Corey was hitting .413 with a .456 OBP.

After watching last nights' game, I would do two things if I were Dusty. I would sit Corey Patterson for at least one night, and let Tom Goodwin start in center. Then, when Corey does come back to the lineup, I would move him down to the seven hole and bat Michael Barrett in the second spot for a while. Barrett currently has a .340 OBP, while batting .295. Also, Barrett has shown excellent ability in laying down the sacrifice bunt. Batting Barrett in the second spot would allow Dusty to play small ball if Todd Walker gets on, or put extra men on base in front of Sosa, Alou, Ramirez, and Lee.

Letting Corey hit in the seventh spot would also take some of the pressure to set the table off of Corey, and allow him to use his speed more effectively. Dusty has been cautious running Patterson in front of Sosa, Alou, and company. Letting Patterson steal bases in the seventh spot will generate some IBBs for Ramon Martinez in the eighth spot, and bring the pitcher to the plate with two strikes more often.

On a side note, Aramis Ramirez was charged an error in yesterday's game (Steve Stone and I both felt the error should have gone to Derrek Lee), but it was only his second error of the season! Aramis has really improved this year, especially with D. Lee scooping up a few errant throws. By contrast, "The Wizard II," to hear Chip Caray call the game, Alex Gonzalez has already made four errors this year, before hitting the DL. Beginnnig mid-season last year, Chip Caray decided to start telling his audiences what a wonderful defensive shortstop Alex Gonzalez had become, and this was justified. Alex had a wonderful year defensively in 2003, but that label has continued to be applied to Gonzalez, despite the fact that he is having a horrid year again this year. (Credit must be given to the Cardinal's broadcast team who correctly identified Gonzalez' defensive limitations during the series ten days ago.)



Range Factor - MLB Rank
OBP - MLB Rank for SS
HR - MLB Rank for SS
.975 - 10th
4.56 -15th
.313 - 14th
15 - 8th
.987 - 4th
4.97 - 2nd
.303 - 14th
17 - 6th
.965 - 23rd
4.22 - 22nd
.312 - 11th
18 - 5th
.989 - 2nd
4.48 -12th
.295 - 19th
20 - 5th
.961 -24th
4.41 - 18th
.261 - 24th
3 - 6th

In 1999, Gonzo played only 38 games before suffering a torn labrum and undergoing season ending shoulder surgery. 2004 statistics are through May 7th, when Gonzalez broke his hand, and will spend six to eight weeks on the disabled list.

Looking at Gonzalez' career fielding statistics is interesting, because it shows an inconsistent fielder from year to year. His 1997, 2001, and 2003 defensive statistics are impressive, gold-glove caliber work, while his 1995, 1996, 2002, and 2004 work have been poor.

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