Goatriders of the Apocalypse

2009 Player Previews - Derrek Lee

D.Lee

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The Cubs wrap up spring training in the very near future (officially Thursday, but functionally Saturday), and no where on the diamond has the team shown more promise than first base. Their star first baseman has led the team in virtually every offensive statistic. He's racked up 5 dingers in 78 at-bats, 15 runs, 22 RBI, and a .590 Slugging percentage. Oh, and the .295 average isn't bad, although I wouldn't mind seeing that .337 OBP go up a few dozen points.

But enough about the backup (Micah Hoffpauir). Let's discuss the starter. Derrek Lee has always been a slow starter. He suffered a minor injury (I believe it was WBC-itis) this spring and has only seen limited action. In 48 at-bats, Rodan has managed just one homer, 5 runs, 6 RBI, and a .396 SLG. To finish the comparables, Lee's batting .271 with a .327 OBP. In fact, the only major offensive statistic in which D-Lee compares favorably to Micah Hoffpauir is in K/AB. D-Lee struck out in 19% of his at-bats this spring, vs. 21% for Hoffpauir.

So what does this all mean? Well, there's the obvious. Derrek's had a poor spring. Not miserable, but certainly not good. Hoff on the other hand has battled his way onto the roster like a drunken rock star... or something like that. But Spring is Spring, and over a long season, very few people would take Micah Hoffpauir over Derrek Lee.

As someone who hasn't followed the club closely enough this spring to fall in love with the Hoff, I'm obligated to point out that he's probably at his all-time peak in terms of trade value. We're talking about Google at $715, Yahoo at $108, or even Volkswagon at $208.

Now Derrek, on the other hand, could be the most crucial man on the roster. If we see pre-wrist!Derrek out on the diamond, this team could threaten the 1906 Cubs (or not, but it sounds pretty good). If we see post-wrist!Derrek, well this team could win 97 games.

Derrek Lee on the scoreboard

I think going into the system, most fans are anticipating a similar performance as 2008 from Lee, while hoping for a 2005 style surge. Still, as eternal optimists, we're probably understating the likelihood that 2005!Derrek was Google, Yahoo, and Volkswagon at their peak (a fleeting sensation to be remembered for quite a while as we all wonder why the current version can't compare.) If that's the case, it's good to know we've got Hoff wasting away on the Pine if it turns out to be the case.

forget 2005 please

Lee's 2005 was a memorable positive light in a dark sea of Dusty. But let's forget it because it is such an outlier to Lee's typical performance. Here is Derrek's average season from 2000 to 2004:

148 games, 153 hits, 32 2B, 3 3B, 28 HR, 73 BB, 134 K, .276/.365/.497

and from 2007-2008

151 games, 181 hits, 42 2B, 2 3B, 21 HR, 71 BB, 117 K, .303/.380/.487

So his power is down slightly, BA and OBP up a little. His 2001 is about as bad as his 2008. I expect a slight bounce back from last year, hopefully with a restored fly ball rate to cut down on those pesky GIDPs he had last year.

With the exception of 2005, Lee has never been the guy to do the heavy lifting when it comes to offensive production; he's a very useful part who generally goes about putting up quiet, solid numbers. That is about all I expect from him this year. He remains one of my favorite members of the Cubs of the past 5 years.

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