Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Eric Patterson

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Reader Blog: Trade Winds

Jim Hendry has been the Cubs GM since mid 2002, so we’ve got a lot of trades to look at. I’m going to highlight one or two from each season that strike me as particularly important or illuminating.

2002: Cubs trade Todd Hundley&Chad Hermansen for Mark Grudzeilanek&Eric Karros.

Hundley is my least favorite Cub of all time. He was shitty.  He was overpaid. And he was a mean son of a bitch. The Cubs handed him a 4 year, $23.5 million contract before the 2001 season. In his two years as a Cub, Hundley totaled 579 plate appearances and posted an OPS below 700. For those who prefer batting average, Todd hit .187 and .211 in 2001 and ’02. He’s most famous in Chicago for flipping off the home fans while rounding the bases after a home run. He was like Fukudome without the production, pleasant demeanor or sobriety.

Somehow, Jimbo convinced the Dodgers to take this sad sack off our hands, and send us something useful in return. Both Grudzeilanek and Karros contributed to the division winning squad in 2003. Grudz became our starting 2B, and he could inside out the ball to the opposite field as well as any hitter I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget watching Karros videotaping the playoffs from the Cubs dugout during the NLCS. It really felt like he was one of us. He wasn’t a bad platoon first baseman either.

Oh, and Hundley was pumped full of steroids for much of his career. So there’s that.

2003: Cubs trade Jose Hernandez, Matt Bruback&a PTBNL for Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton&Cash.

Cubs trade Ray Sadler for Randall Simon.

2003 was Hendry’s finest season. The Cubs would not have won their division that season were it not for Ramirez, Lofton and Simon. Lofton and Simon are long gone, while Aramis remains as the greatest Cubs 3B since Ron Santo. And Hendry gave up practically nothing to get them. Thanks, Pittsburgh!

2004: Cubs trade Hee Seop Choi for Derrek Lee.

Cubs trade Brendan Harris, Alex Gonzalez&Francis Beltran for Nomar Garciappara & Matt Murton.

The Choi for Lee deal rivals the Aramis Ramirez trade for the best of Hendry’s career. Clearly, Jim was on his game in the early nineties. Choi never realized his potential, and is probably best remembered for being carted off the field after an in game collision with Kerry Wood.  Derrek’s achievements speak for themselves. He is my favorite Cub, and I will be sad to see him go if this is truly his last season here.

As much as the Nomar trade did not work out, I believe now as I believed then that is was the right move to make. The Cubs SHOULD have won their division that season and were trying to add the missing piece for a postseason run. Obviously things didn’t work out. Mercker bitched, LaTroy imploded, Sammy stepped out, and the Cubs massively underachieved and missed the postseason altogether. The following April, Nomar suffered the most excruciating injury imaginable, and that was that. He was on the DL until August, and by that time the only interesting question left was whether DLee would win the 2005 NL MVP. The Cubs finished 21 games behind the Ratbirds, who won 100 times that year.

2005: Cubs trade Sammy Sosa & Cash for Jerry Hairston Jr., Mike Fontenot and David Crouthers.

Cubs trade Ricky Nolaso, Sergio Mitre & Renyel Pinto for Juan Pierre.

2005 was the first year that Hendry really pissed me off.  These two trades, which neatly wrap around a lost season, signal a real change in Jim’s ability to maximize value on the trade market. Let’s tackle the Sosa deal first. Sosa was a diva who didn’t mesh well with his teammates. He was getting older and was obviously on the decline. He still hit 35 HR in 2004. He should have brought more in return than he did. I believe he would have, if not for the systematic way the Cubs undermined any leverage they might have had in trading him. As you all undoubtedly remember, Sammy left the ballpark 15 minutes into the final game of the 2004 season. This became public, and it shortly became obvious that Sosa would never be welcomed back into the Cubs clubhouse. When 29 teams know you have to trade a guy, 29 teams will not give you good value in return. Fontenot was the only piece worth mentioning here, and he’s a platoon 2B who was nearly DFA’d by the club this past offseason.

Then there’s Juan Pierre. Hendry’s worst trade as the Cubs’GM. Full disclosure. I despised him then and I still do. Maybe it’s because, along with Josh Beckett and Pudge Rodriguez, I still associate him with the 2003 Marlins. Maybe it’s because he posted a crappy OBP with zero power. Or his limp dick outfield arm. Or maybe it’s because we lost 96 games and I needed a scapegoat. Here’s why this trade still pisses me off to this day: Ricky Nolasco is awesome. He’s exactly the kind of player the Cubs need to keep if they are going to be successful. And Jimbo traded him for one subpar year of a crappy player on a terrible team. GAHHHHHHHHHH.

2006: Cubs trade Greg Maddux for Cesar Izturis.

This one is more emotional than anything else. Hendry traded Maddux to the Dodgers to give him a shot at winning a championship. Respect.

2007: Cubs trade Rocky Cherry and Scott Moore for Steve Trachsel.

WTF? Cherry and Moore were no great shakes, but I can’t begin to fathom what Hendry was hoping to accomplish here. Trachsel was old and finished. Trachsel made a few starts, didn’t pitch well, and was left off the postseason roster.

2008: Cubs trade Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson & Josh Donaldson for Rich Harden & Chad Gaudin.

Cubs trade Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg.

Like the Nomar trade, the Harden deal was a well meaning, but ultimately failed attempt to improve the team for a deep postseason run. I saw Harden’s first Wrigley Field start in person. He was DOMINANT. If memory serves, he went 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 10 K. I was convinced he was the missing piece.  Two years later, the Cubs have no rings, and Harden struggles to get out of the third inning with fewer than 100 pitches thrown. At least it doesn’t look like those prospects amount to much.

Kevin Gregg was a disaster and I'm glad he's gone.

2009: Cubs trade Mark DeRosa for Jeff Stevens, John Gaub and Christopher Archer.

And the Trixies wept.

2010: Cubs trade Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva & cash.

Cubs trade Aaron Miles, Jake Fox & cash for Jeff Gray, Ronny Morla and Matt Spencer.

Two things are obvious to me about these most recent trades: First, it is far too early to say anything definitive about these deals.  Second, they were all about Hendry fixing his free agency mistakes from the previous offseason. That’s never a good thing for a GM. I was furious with Hendry for suspending Bradley for the last 15 games of the 2009 season, as it robbed him of any leverage he might have had in trade talks. I was furious all over again when the Cubs traded for Silva, who has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball for the last several years. Now I’m just sort of numb. I know Silva isn’t an ace, and his sub – 1.00 ERA is the product of small sample size. I’d be thrilled if he finished the year with an ERA under 4.50, and right now that looks like a possibility. As for Gray, at least he got AAron Miles out of here. Meh.

Conclusions:
Hendry made a number of brilliant trades early in his GM career. Since 2004, he’s been significantly less productive in the trade market. It’s not clear whether other teams simply got smarter, Jim lost his touch, or something else altogether, but Hendry hasn’t had an obvious win since the trade that brought Derrek Lee to Chicago. Hendry’s trades aren’t getting it done anymore. He should be fired.

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Rich Harden to Cubs

My boss just emailed me and said that Bruce Levine is on ESPN 1000 reporting the following:

RH Pitcher Rich Harden of A's going to Cubs per ESPN.

ERA is 2.34. Record is 5-1 I think.

Cubs giving up 4-5 players/prospects. Not sure who.

You can thank my boss for the scoop.

Update 5:33 pm: Matt Murton and Eric Patterson are involved.

Update 5:34 pm: Sean Ghallager, too.

Geez, this is going to be an expensive trade.

Update: 5:48 pm: The Hendry Press conference just ended. Here's the trade: Cubs get Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin (a RHP currently in the A's pen.) The Cubs give up: Sean Gallagher, Eric Patterson, Matt Murton, and a minor league guy whose name was not familiar to me (Josh Donaldson).

Hendry basically said they've been discussing the deal for two weeks, trading names back and forth. The player that Billy Beane absolutely wanted and that Hendry did not want to give up was Sean Gallagher. Hendry spoke highly of both Murton and Gallagher's character but didn't take the opportunity to extend those remarks to Eric Patterson.

Lou's on, update to follow.

Update 6:08 pm Lou just finished up. He had some great quotes as usual but didn't add too much. Apparently Gaudin played for him in Tampa, but Lou didn't actively lobby for him as Lou didn't find out about the deal until today at 3:00.

When quizzed by one of the beat reporters (Hendry has been working on this for two weeks.) Lou laughed it off, "without me. Ha ha ha." Lou then went on to say that Hendry and he had talked on Friday and that Hendry knew they weren't going to be able to get Sabathia, but Hendry said there might be someone else.

The Quotable Lou Piniella

"Yesterday, Milwaukee made a deal for a real good left handed starter and today Jim went out and got himself a real good righty. It just shows how competitive he is." – Lou Piniella

"We gave up some kids for the present. As a manager you love to see an organization go out and help you." – Lou Piniella

"The Cubs are going to do everything in their power to help us win." – Lou Piniella

"This makes us better and we're very very pleased." – Lou Piniella

Matt Murton
Matt Murton shows off his arm in a game against the Giants.
Image courtesy of The Cubdom Photo Gallery

It's a sad day to see Carrot-top leave Chicago, but boy is that red hair going to clash with Oakland green and gold.

Johnson and Ramirez return, Patterson optioned to Iowa

Via Gordon Wittenmyer's Twitter account. Aramis Ramirez is back with the team and will be batting cleanup; Reed Johnson was activated off the disabled list, with Eric Patterson being optioned to AAA Iowa to make room. Johnson will start tonight in left field.

Tuesday Morning Odds and Ends, Left-Handed Second Basemen Are The New Market Inefficiency

I want you to imagine it - it's the day before opening day, 2008. I – mystically, I guess, from the future - tell you that, halfway through the season:

  1. Alfonso Soriano is on the DL for a second time, this time with a fracture in the hand.
  2. Carlos Zambrano is on the DL too, with shoulder problems.
  3. Oh, and Daryle Ward is on the DL as well.
  4. Rich Hill comes down with Steve Blass Disease, and is finally shipped to Mesa to try and find himself again as a pitcher.
  5. Ted Lilly tacks on almost a whole run to his ERA.
  6. The Cubs abandon the Pie experiment, and replace him after they pick up Jim Edmonds, released by the Padres for hitting .178.
  7. The Cubs have been horrible on the road, going 16-20.
  8. Meanwhile, the Cardinals come from nowhere and put up a 44-33 record, second-best in the NL.

How would you react?

I’m not trying to harsh anyone’s mellow here or anything. But I just want everyone to reflect on the fact that the Cubs haven’t coasted to get to this point, despite what other fanbases may say. I think this is a stronger team than a lot of people give them credit for.

Carlos Marmol is getting a mechanical tune-up. Please tell me this doesn't involve an oil change.

Meanwhile, Reed Johnson looks primed to join the team’s expanding disabled list when Marshall is officially called up to take Zambrano’s start tomorrow. Johnson claims to be feeling better, although the final decision is up to the team’s medical staff. That would save Murton, Hoffpauir and Patterson from a return to Iowa until at least Friday, when one of them is expected to be sent down to make room for Daryle Ward. I can only hope that the plan is not to carry around two backup first basemen who both hit left handed.

Meanwhile, Patterson seems to be providing the sort of top-of-the-order presence Lou has been searching for. And I’ll just pass this on without comment:

Theriot is hitting .310 with 28 multiple-hit games. But he's also third in the league in ground balls hit and has grounded into nine double plays despite having decent speed. Piniella prefers speed at the top of his lineup, and obviously Patterson trumps Theriot, who leads the team in steals with 13 but has been thrown out eight times.

It’s probably a bit early to coronate Patterson, and it’s hard to see him displacing Mark DeRosa from second base, his natural position. Phil Rodgers sees him as trade bait. And speaking of trade bait:

Micah Hoffpauir's left-handed bat is a valuable asset with Daryle Ward out, but, like Ward, the rookie is not good enough defensively to play left or right field on a regular basis. Hoffpauir looked tentative on a few balls that landed in front of him on the artificial turf at Tropicana Field, and he didn't start over the weekend against the Sox.

… Since Derrek Lee is set at first, Hoffpauir's main value may be as trade bait to an American League team looking for a first baseman/DH. If the Cubs make a move for Oakland's Rich Harden, Hoffpauir might be included in the package.

I consider that… unlikely.

Speaking of trades, more news is coming out about the Brian Roberts Hostage Crisis. Purportedly Hendry offered Veal, Cedeno and Gallagher. Thankfully nothing came of it – can you figure where the Cubs would be right now without Gallagher?

Cubs call up Murton, look for Hendry’s ADD meds

I love all the winning, but sometimes I find myself baffled by this organization. To wit:

Matt Murton will get another chance to prove he's a major-league player this week when the Cubs recall him from Triple-A Iowa before Tuesday's game at Tampa Bay.

Manager Lou Piniella said Saturday the Cubs have lacked a corner outfielder and another right-handed hitter since Alfonso Soriano went on the disabled list last week. Murton fills the bill, and major-league sources said he received word on Sunday he'd be called up.

Murton's arrival means the Cubs are likely to send down infielder-outfielder Eric Patterson, who is 2-for-8 since being called up on Friday.

Really? You mean to tell me that a team where one of the two corner outfielders is hurt needs another corner outfielder? And our bench consists of three lefties who don’t hit very well, a backup catcher and Ronny Cedeno? (Note: when you’re willing to pinch hit for a guy with Ronny Cedeno, and that guy’s a first baseman – that’s not a good sign.)

Meanwhile, Eric Patterson was given all of eight at-bats to prove that he was, oh, I don’t know, better than Mike Fontenot. And Mike Fontenot is not a very high bar to get over. Here’s how I picture Mike Fontenot:

fontenot

The guy’s what I like to call a hamster. I mean, seriously, look at him and tell me you don’t see it.

I know Eric Patterson is a guy folks like to hate – and no small amount of it has to do with his brother, Corey – but he’s got some plus attributes to him, which is more than Fontenot has going for him. Patterson can play the outfield and he’s a great baserunner. But he’s not a left fielder, and he’s certainly not ready to be a major league leadoff man.

So the Cubs made this decision based upon information readily available when they made the Hoffpauir/Patterson callup. (Okay, to be fair – the Cubs aren’t going to just come out and SAY “There’s no way in hell that we’re going to let Edmonds bat against Kazmir, so we needed Murton so we can move Reed to center.)

The question is, will Murton play? The Cubs have apparently decided that one good game makes Johnson our new leadoff hitter despite pretty obvious evidence that he’s a platoon player at this point.

ericpattersonsucks.com

OK, I’m watching the game and I feel compelled to make a comment as Eric Patterson just struck out swinging at a ball in the dirt…

WHY DOES THIS GUY PLAY?

Seriously, can someone tell me why Lou keeps putting this guy in the lineup? I know he only has 12 at-bats (of which he has one hit and 4 K’s) with the 2008 Cubs and it’s hard to judge him based on so few attempts at the plate, but here’s a newsflash for you Walter Cronkite: E.P. can’t hit.

Notice how Kurt’s post-Soriano-injury alternate lineups don’t even mention Patterson once? Is this because we are giving Patterson a free pass or do we simply not notice his amount of suckitude?

I tried to think of a good reason to play Patterson but I just can’t find one (especially since we have Thunder Matt tearing shizzy up with his boomstick in Iowa). Can someone enlighten me about this?

Sometimes I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

…of course now that I wrote this post, Patterson will probably hit a grand slam tonight. Such is life.

Hoffpauir and Patterson Up, Hart Down; And A Look At Our Second Base Options

Well, here it is. Hoffpauir and Patterson are up. Kevin Hart is shipped out. And Patterson is playing left and leading off today. You could push me over with a feather after hearing that last one.

I’ll hopefully update this post in a little while, but in the meantime, here’s a table showing our options at second base, should DeRosa see playing time in left:

Mark DeRosa
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
MLB
208
40
65
13
0
8
35
29
46
3
0
.313
.398
.490
.888
Projected
263
40
76
15
1
7
40
30
54
2
1
.289
.362
.433
.795
Eric Patterson
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
AAA
181
27
59
13
3
5
26
10
41
10
0
.326
.361
.514
.875
Translated
184
20
50
9
2
4
19
7
44
8
0
.273
.301
.408
.709
MLB
6
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
3
1
0
.000
.000
.000
.000
Total
190
20
50
9
2
4
20
7
47
9
0
.263
.289
.395
.684
Projected
325
40
85
15
3
8
37
22
64
13
6
.262
.308
.400
.708
Mike Fontenot
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
MLB
88
16
21
7
0
2
12
12
16
2
0
.239
.337
.386
.723
Projected
229
34
60
15
2
5
26
23
43
4
2
.262
.329
.410
.740
Ronny Cedeno
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
MLB
95
19
28
7
0
1
19
10
16
3
1
.295
.368
.400
.768
Projected
234
30
65
12
1
5
30
15
43
5
3
.278
.321
.402
.723

Patterson can run the bases, no question. Projections for defense: DeRosa +4, Cedeno +2, Fontenot -3. DeRosa's played worse than that so far this season, while Cedeno and Fontenot have played better. I don't have projections for Patterson. I’ll leave Patterson at a zero, then, and I’ll leave the other numbers unadjusted for now.

wOBA
Defense
Offense/112
Defense/112
Runs/112
DeRosa
0.352
4
1.36
0.69
2.05
Cedeno
0.318
2
-1.95
0.34
-1.60
Fontenot
0.326
-3
-1.17
-0.52
-1.69
Patterson
0.311
0
-2.63
0.00
-2.63

This isn't giving Patterson any credit for his baserunning, which is a plus. And I’m not entirely behind those defensive estimates. Cedeno looks like the best option of the three, although I think Murton is probably a better left fielder than any of them are second basemen. (These, unlike my full WAR numbers, are not adjusted by position.)

How will Soriano’s injury impact the Cubs?

Soriano is going to to the DL for six weeks with a broken hand.

The return of Micah Hoffpauir a day early won’t be the end of the roster moves:

Infielder-outfielder Micah Hoffpauir will come up today from Class AAA Iowa to take Soriano's place on the roster. The Cubs need another hitter for the American League parks coming up.

It's possible they could recall either outfielder Matt Murton or infielder-outfielder Eric Patterson from Iowa by Friday. Currently, the Cubs are carrying 13 pitchers.

Mark DeRosa moved from second base to left field Wednesday. Expect DeRosa to see significant time in left during Soriano's absence, which will be about six weeks or even longer.

So, I’m operating under the assumption that two of Patterson, Hoffpauir and Murton will be called up. Hoffpauir has the least baseball talent of the group, so of course he’s the only one that’s guaranteed a callup.

What I’ve done is taken a player’s minor league numbers and figured out their Major League Equivalency – essentially an estimate of how they would have performed in the majors. Then, I combined those numbers with their MLB numbers. All of those numbers were then fed into the ZiPS projection tool, which uses those figures (in combination with their career numbers) to come up with a projection. (I also did a projection on Soriano for the rest of the season, based upon his numbers to date. Here’s an explanation of how projection systems work.) Here’s the table:

Eric Patterson
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
AAA
181
27
59
13
3
5
26
10
41
10
0
.326
.361
.514
.875
Translated
184
20
50
9
2
4
19
7
44
8
0
.273
.301
.408
.709
MLB
6
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
3
1
0
.000
.000
.000
.000
Total
190
20
50
9
2
4
20
7
47
9
0
.263
.289
.395
.684
Projected
325
40
85
15
3
8
37
22
64
13
6
.262
.308
.400
.708
Micah Hoffpauir
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
AAA
62
12
19
4
0
3
15
1
12
0
0
.306
.308
.516
.824
Translated
62
9
16
3
0
2
11
0
13
0
0
.259
.268
.417
.685
MLB
14
4
8
3
0
0
1
1
6
0
0
.421
.450
.579
1.029
Total
76
13
24
6
0
2
12
1
19
0
0
.316
.325
.474
.798
Projected
191
21
52
12
0
8
33
13
36
1
0
.272
.319
.461
.779
Matt Murton
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
AAA
177
25
55
10
1
1
14
28
16
3
2
.311
.411
.395
.807
Translated
184
18
47
8
0
0
10
21
17
2
2
.254
.330
.316
.646
MLB
14
2
3
0
0
0
4
1
2
0
0
.214
.267
.214
.481
Total
198
20
50
8
0
0
14
22
19
2
2
.253
.327
.293
.620
Projected
286
39
79
15
0
8
35
31
37
2
1
.276
.347
.413
.760
Alfonso Soriano
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
MLB
211
36
60
11
0
15
40
15
46
7
1
.284
.330
.550
.880
Projected
341
57
97
21
1
21
63
23
76
13
5
.284
.330
.537
.866

All three of them represent a sizable falloff. Hoffpauir is the one most capable of replacing Soriano’s power in the lineup, but that’s really damning with faint praise here. Murton is probably the best hitter of the group, given his superior on-base percentage. (Although his projected advantage over Hoffpauir is mighty slim.)

Of course they still have to play defense. So let’s look at some defensive projections, measured in runs saved/allowed versus the positional average. Murton projects as a +3 corner outfielder over the course of a season, Patterson as a +8. (Soriano projects as a +6; the projections don’t know about his leg injuries this year.)

Hoffpauir’s defense is an absolute cypher. We can look at minor league defensive numbers – Hoffpauir played 13 games in the outfield last season at AAA and was just off the charts bad. But he only played in 13 equivalent games in the outfield, hardly enough to pass judgement on.

What we do know is this. Hoffpauir has been a first baseman pretty much since his days in college. That tells me that, up until Lou Piniella saw him hitting this spring, nobody involved in talent evaluation saw much of a future for him in the outfield. Based on a charitable set of assumptions – that he’s an average defensive first baseman, and that he has the tools necessary to play the outfield – you’re looking at a –5 fielder. Again, that’s the charitable view.

Let’s assume that Soriano misses 36 games, and let’s assume that whoever fills in for him will average 3.1 plate appearances per game. That’s 112 plate appearances. We can figure out runs above average on offense and defense over that period in time. So, put it together and what have you got?

wOBA
Defense
Offense/112
Defense/112
Runs/112
Soriano
.367
6
2.82
1.03
3.86
Murton
.337
3
-0.10
0.52
0.42
Hoffpauir
.336
-5
-0.19
-.086
-1.06
Patterson
.311
8
-2.63
1.38
-1.25

Again: I'm making some charitable assumptions on defense for Hoffpauir. Even still, he lags significantly behind Murton, even while they're basically tied as hitters. The problem is that a lot of Murton’s value is wrapped up in his walks, while Hoffpauir’s value comes more from his low-wattage power.

That’s assuming that any of them were to be filling in for him in left field. There are two other players on the Cubs who could be filling in in left: Reed Johnson and Mark DeRosa. That requires a bit more chaining to figure out, because then you have to also look at who’s playing center or second while those two are playing fill-in. I’ll take a look at that later.

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