Goatriders of the Apocalypse

A few more thoughts on Derrek Lee

Let's consider a couple of things quickly:

Line 1: 11 at bats, 6 hits, 3 doubles, 2 runs scored, .545 AVG, 1.402 OPS.
Line 2: 12 at bats, 4 hits, 0 extra bases, .333 AVG, .718 OPS.

These are Derrek Lee's career stats in the post season with the Cubs.  In 23 career post season at bats as a Cub, Lee is batting .435 with 3 doubles, 3 runs scored, and, glaringly, 0 RBI.

There remain a loud minority of fans, on this website and others, who are advocating that the Cubs cut the cord with Lee.  Jim Hendry apparently needs to convince him to waive his no-trade clause so the team can deal him in order to make room for what would essentially be a 29-year-old rookie first baseman next season, because apparently we should be impressed that a guy who's been in Triple A for parts of 5 seasons finally managed to figure out the pitching there.

Don't get me wrong - at this moment, The Hoff is my first choice to replace Daryle Ward as a bench player/outfielder, but if you think it's a good move to send Lee packing for him, then you are living in fantasyland.  However, what is true, what is absolutely true, is that Lee is an under-performing #3 hitter on the decline.  I think that the solution to this problem, however, is not hanging our hopes on a career minor leaguer, but instead moving Lee to a different spot in the lineup next season.

Besides, if you think Hoffpauir can outperform Lee, as apparently some of you do, then I'm sure you'll agree with me that a first baseman making the minimum who can do better than a .291 AVG, 41 doubles, 20 homers, 90 RBI, and a .361 OBP might have some great trade value - in fact, he would have much more trade value than Lee, right?  Keeping in mind that line of logic, then it would be safe to assume that Hendry would deal him to a team desperate for his clearly superior talents, or that any team trading talent to the Cubs would insist that he be included in any trade.  Which won't happen, by the way, because Hoffpauir is a midling talent at best.

Going back to the playoff numbers I presented earlier, it seems clear to me that there is another, more urgent problem.  The team's #3 hitter, who actually appears to have hit the ball quite well these past two Octobers, failed to drive in a single RBI.  I wonder if that's ever happened before in playoff history?  But before we blame the guy who's batting .435 in October for the Cubs, let's consider a more likely culprit - the complete and total failure of the players batting ahead of him in the lineup.

Therefore, my friends, I suggest the following: Jim Hendry's priority this off season should be to find a better leadoff and #2 hitter - and this is actually something he might be able to do by looking within the organization.  I can think of one glaringly obvious example of a #2 guy - Mark DeRosa.  Why Lou Piniella has failed to use him in that capacity astonishes me.  But if DeRosa had been batting in front of Lee this past NLDS, the Cubs may very well have scored a few more runs.  It's just food for thought.

But all this talk about dumping Lee and turning to Hoffpauir is ludicrous.  Players like Hoffpauir are abundantly common - and none of them could do the job Lee does.  Instead, let's hope that the Cubs focus on the right problems - choosing the right batting order for the 1-3 players in the lineup.

UPDATE: Rob decides to piggyback Kurt's post right here:

I'm not sure if Kurt is including me in the "Dump Lee" camp, because I have come out several times this year in criticism of Lee, and because I do belong to the Hoff Power Fan Klub, although I am not the president, as is rumored.

I do believe that he provides a level of production, although probably not up to par with his current compensation.

I do believe that he has no more business batting third in the lineup.

I do believe that Hofpauir deserves, at the very least, to escape Des Moines, Iowa.

I do believe that Lee, having only one year left on his contract (Editor's Note: Lee is locked up for 2 more years, in fact) and being a Gold Glove first baseman who also hits .300, gets on base 35% of the time, and hits 20+ homers, could be packaged (NOT SHOULD) for either that elusive All-Star leadoff man or a front-of-the-rotation starter.

Unfortunately, the guy I want plays for a team that already possesses an All-Star first baseman, namely the Padres.  Therefore, they have zero need for Lee.  I'm not in favor of trading him for Matt Cain.  I would package him in a deal for Lincecum, as would all of you, but the Giants would never do anything THAT stupid.  Right?

I would NOT actively shop Derrek Lee.  If somebody has something really shiny for me, and they ask about Lee, I would at least listen.  But I would not DUMP him, and neither should you want to.  Period.  Sentence.  Paragraph.  Story.

Lineup

I am inclined to agree with most everything you said, but it's hard to lineup juggle with the Cubs because they have about 4 guys who could hit 2nd on a team and 4 more who could hit 5th or 6th.

One of the best things about the 08 Cub team was the offensive balance. I really don't care that they don't have someone super fearsome in the middle of the order. From an opposing team perspective, there's never an easy inning, unless Ronny Cedeno is involved somehow.

As the oft-interviewed Mark DeRosa has noted, as Soriano goes, so go the Cubs. Soriano will hit leadoff next year and that's just something everyone will have to live with. It is kind of nice to see the bottom of the Cub order get a rally going and know that it's Soriano lurking in the on deck circle, as opposed to someone like Juan Pierre.

I'd hate to see the Cubs try to mess too much with the best OPS+ in baseball this year (at least I think it was the best, but I'm too lazy to look it up right now) merely because they got buzzsawed by a team in a 3 game series in the NLDS. They struggled with LA's very good pitching during the season, so it's not like it was absurd that they struggled in the postseason.

The Hof-Not Hasselhoff

If I had my way, I would hold on to Lee at first base and try out The Hof in the outfield. Even if Lee is waining offensively, the Cubs lineup is still better with him in it. I think, as fans, instead of running off a Gold Glove first baseman who hit .545 this year in the playoffs, maybe we should question the offensive decision-making of our power hitting lead-off hitter that hit .071. Just a thought.

you just brought up something I was thinking about.......

Derrek Lee is our best hitter and he is one of the best on the team at working the count. Why not have Lee bat 2nd? Of course, this means that the Cubs need to find a number 3 hitter, unless Soto works in the offseason on his patience at the plate.

One reason

While it may have been bad luck/a series of flukes, Lee grounded into close to 30 double plays last season. I can understand not wanting him batting 2nd for that one reason

Still

Lee is arguably our best hitter. He may not have power, but he is a guy gets on base fruently. Another benefit of having Lee, bat second we can see Soriano utilize his speed. Obviously, with a double play hitter like Lee we would want Soriano to get good jumps and steal some bases. The guy had 30 steals or more in five of the last six years prior to joining the Cubs. Let's face having Soriano on first or second with Theriot at the plate is not very scary. In would say in a perfect world, Lee in the second spot would protect Soriano, but how can anyone say that a guy who thinks he is playing cricket half the time can expect better pitches to hit? The only reason why I don't want to see him in the bottom half of the order is that we seem to have a lot of those kindof guys on our roster.

Also

119 SO's or 19% of his AB's. Which seems high, but when compared to 21% for DeRosa and Fukudome, 23% for Soriano, 24% for Soto, it seems the man 43 more AB's than the next hitter on the team just had a chance to take an early seat more. 33% of AB's for Hoff, and I don't know if you blame his discipline or lack of big league experience, so we'll look at his last 40 or so AB's, 42 works well. So in 47 PA's, with 42 AB's, 13 H's, good for .310 BA, 14 SO's, 3 2B's, 2 HR's, 7 RBI's, 5 BB's, 0 GPD's (here come the Lee haters on this stat), 22 TB's, .524 SLG, .383 OBS, and .907 OPS. So in this small sample of 17 games, those are very respectable numbers, yet if they can hold or only crumble slightly over a season is yet to be seen. More SO's than H's is a concern, but not enough of one to keep him at Iowa.

Sorry, you're wrong about Lee

He is not a rapidly fading #3 hitter. He's a career #6 hitter who had one really really good year.

I like the guy and I don't think he's tradeable anyway, but his brilliant 2005 was an aberration in an otherwise solid if not exceptional career. His injury in 2006 has nothing to do with it.

#3 hitter

Before Lee came to the Cubs, he never hit above 5th. And not until 2005 did he hit 3rd. There were these other two guys named Sosa and Alou who occupied the 3 and 4 spots in the order. Only 3 times did Lee ever hit at least 30 HR's, 2003...30 Hr's, 2004...31 HR's and 2005...40+ HR's. So $13M a year for a number 5 hitter that plays a power position, is a RHB on a RH dominant lineup that doesn't crank out 30+ HR's a year is a luxury that we can do without.

You can't trade Soriano, as much as some might like to, Soto is one of the only productive home grown products produced by the organization not to mention he is a complete offensive and defensive catcher, and Ramirez plays a position that only a few in both leagues play better.

If you want balance in the lineup, it doesn't look like the Trib is going to increase payroll by the $30+ Million you'd need to go after a Teixeira and Furcal, and might not even be willing to go after even one of them. With that said, the money you'd save if Lee is traded $13M, would be instantly chewed up by some $7.5M of increase do to back loaded contracts and the resigning of Dempster and Wood if any money were saved at all.

Would I rather have Teixeira instead of Hoffpauir? Of course I would, but the club still hasn't addressed the lack of a power hitting RF or a quality lead off man either.

If being a good GM means always offering more years at a premium to secure free agents, Eyre, Howry and Jones, trading for players other teams couldn't afford or were hurt, Ramirez, Lee, Garciappara and Harden, then Hendry is your man.

I don't know if Hoffpauir and Pie will work out but if the Cubs start the season with them and acquire a legitimate lead off man, the team will still have time to make a move before the trading deadline to augment the team where needed.

DLEE Thoughts

I like Derrek Lee, but I can understand the rumors about trading him. You would have to consider it hard, if it could net you Matt Cain. I doubt DLee is enough to get Cain. I have also heard the rumors about DLee for Randy Winn. The first thought is "NO WAY", but when you check the numbers, I don't know if it is really a bad thing. The main thing is that you have Hoffpauir there with a left handed bat and some thump. Is he MLB ready? I guess there is only one way to find out. If he isn't ready, you always have Mark DeRosa around that could play 1st base.

I think that if the Cubs can trade for Brian Roberts, then DLee stays. If not, then DLee might the be the trading chip needed to land a left handed player that can either hit for power or lead off.

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