2009 Player Previews - Micah Hoffpauir
Did you know that if you ignore all the at bats in which Micah Hoffpauir made an out last year, he's a 1.000 hitter at the Major League level? For that reason alone, he should get consideration to start first base.
No, seriously, that's the argument some bloggers are making. If you ignore his 0-for games this spring, then Hoffpauir is considerably outperforming the slow-starting Derrek Lee, and therefore should be the starting first baseman on opening day.
Me, I have a better idea. Micah Hoffpauir should be used as a pinch-hitting backup outfielder and first baseman. He could - and should! - give the Cubs an immensely valuable left-handed bat from the bench. He may - and likely will be! - the bench presence that Daryle Ward was supposed to be last year.
In other words, Micah Hoffpauir as a backup will be one of the most valuable Cubs on the 2009 team. But as a starter, sorry, I have doubts that he'd be able to outperform Derrek Lee.
So let's look at The Hoff. He's really quite the impressive story. After 7 years in the Cubs minor league system, most of which were unimpressive, Hoffpauir tore the cover off the ball in 2008. In 290 minor league at bats, he batted a ridiculous .362 with 25 homers and 100 RBI. His OPS was an astonishing 1.145. He was then promoted to the big leagues for the first time at the age of 28, and he proceeded to capture the imagination and hope of Cub fans everywhere.
Since his success last year, The Hoff has seen a swelling of fan support. People wanted to trade Derrek Lee so Hoff could start first base. They wanted him to get a shot at starting in right field before Milton Bradley signed. Somebody even suggested that the Cubs release Lee outright - thereby eating a hefty salary - and let Hoff start. All of this brings us back full circle to the jabrone Cubs blogger who wants us to ignore certain stats in order to conveniently prove his ridiculous point.
I think that we should be happy for Hoffpauir. He's quite the story. And if he can play well in a minor role in '09, his story will be an even better one. But I remain unconvinced that Lee is finished as an All Star first baseman, much as I remain doubtful that Hoffpauir could be an effective starter at the Major League level.
But for those of you in the Micah Hoffpauir fan club, I'll throw you a bone. If, on June 1st, Derrek Lee is struggling and Micah Hoffpauir is killing major league hitting, then Lou Piniella should revisit his options. Until then, I hope we can be happy for an already impressive success story -- the elevation of Micah Hoffpauir from minor league obscurity to becoming the top bench player on the best team in the National League.