Posted by: thescoundrel | March 27, 2007

2007 Cubs Shortstop/Second-base


I started talking about the 2007 Cubs baseball team a few weeks ago on the blog. I have since been waiting to see just how the preseason was going before I decided to post on the rest of the team. I will pick up where I left off on my last post.
One of the worst weaknesses of the 2006 Cubs team was its defense. That was very evident in the center of the infield. The 2006 team opened that season with veteran player T. Walker (quality hitter/average defense) at second base and almost-rookie R. Cedano playing Shortstop. Walker’s offense was decent but not spectacular, his defense was barely adequate. Cedano looked like he was going to have a repeat of his very good rookie season but the pitchers in the league found his weakness for chasing pitches out of the strike zone and his hitting became a problem in the offense. And like many players his problems hitting started to follow him on the field when he was playing defense and he then started to struggle at shortstop by creating errors and giving offensive breaks for the opposing teams. By around mid-season the Cubs had traded Walker, moved Cedano to second-base, brought up R. Theriot from the minor leagues to split time at second with Cedano and traded for C. Izturis (top-quality defense/ average hitter) to play shortstop. That basically started a revolving door that the infield defense never recovered from. Theriot looked good at the plate and on defense whenever and wherever they played him. Cedano was still struggling on defense and offense. To make things worse Izturis, who has a history of injuries – got hurt again. So Cedano, who had been struggling to learn second-base and regain his hitting form, was once again moved back to shortstop. The results could have been expected, his struggles continued. The way the team was bouncing him around did not give him much of a chance to succeed. Theriot looked good at the plate and playing second-base and occasional shortstop defensively. During the off-season the Cubs pursued a one year wonder second-baseman in M. DeRosa and paid him with a hefty contract. He was then basically handed the second-base job for the 2007. I personally felt they should have stayed with Theriot, who looked good last year in his only season, and used the money to improve the team elsewhere. Izturis has healed and he has reclaimed the shortstop position by rights of his proven defensive capabilities for 2007. With DeRosa and Izturis now securing the center of the infield, the Cubs defense should be vastly improved from last year. The weakness they bring is on offense. In his career Izturis has been a constant average to below average hitter. Until last year the same could be said of DeRosa. If the rest of the team’s 2007 offense can carry and produce, as they should for this team, any offense these two provided will be “sauce for the goose”. If the offense struggles then the merry-go-round that was the downfall of the infield last season could return as they tinker with different players at second-base and shortstop. During preseason DeRosa started out struggling to get hits at the plate but as of late his numbers have improved to become very respectable. The trick will be if he can carry it into the regular season. If not Theriot will be chomping at the bit to take the job. DeRosa as well as Theriot can play second-base, shortstop, third-base and the outfield. That makes both of them very valuable members of the 2007 team, and should offer both a lot of playing time as long as they perform offensively and defensively. This probably played a huge part of the decision to send top outfield Felix Pie down to the AAA minor league team, thus allowing him more time to mature. It is said Pie has a tendency to chase bad pitches at the plate and could use more minor league experience. Izturis started out like a barn burning offensively in preseason but has cooled down some as of late. Still as a veteran his numbers have always been consistent and it is more than likely his bat will not be counted on as much as his glove. Backing him up at shortstop will be Cedano and probably Theriot. By mid-season I would not be surprised for the team to be looking to trade away Theriot, Cedano or Izturis. They are all excellent trade bait and could land the team a good player or prospect. And with E. Patterson hitting up a storm in the preseason, if he continues his tear in the minor leagues, the Cubs could soon have a log jam at second-base. (A luxury that they have not had in it seems forever.) Pattersons defense still needs work and he does have a tendency to chase bad balls when batting – so he is not ready, but his presence in the minors could wind up putting pressure on the rest of the middle infielders to perform well to hold on to their jobs.
All the second-base and shortstop contenders have looked very good in preseason. There is little doubt that the addition of DeRosa added to (a healthy) Izturis will give the teams pitchers a luxury that lacked last year, a consistently solid defensive effort up the middle. This will be a huge help. The questions will be, can the team afford their offense if it is not above average and what changes will they make, if things go sour again.

part 1          part 2          part 4          Preseason Stats

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Responses

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more when it comes to this section of the team. I feel that the DeRosa signing was moronic. Theriot earned the chance to start at 2nd with his play late last year. He was able to do offensively what no other Cub could: get on base and score runs without the long ball. Offensively he is perfect in the 2 spot because of his ability to get on base.

    I have always liked Ronny Cedeno, but worry that he might have blown his chance last year. As you mentioned, there are lots of middle infielders, and I see him as odd man out. With a lot of resources invested in DeRosa and Izturis, they aren’t going anywhere, and Theriot has shown much better ability than Cedeno, so I see Ronny’s days numbered.

    Patterson has put up good numbers which hopefully could make DeRosa trade bait eventually. I wouldn’t mind if they traded him this season, but maybe at least in the offseason this winter they can realize their stupidity.

  2. I think part of the reason they have created a log jam at the middle infielder position and at pitcher is that they have been put in pass or fail circumstances the last few years by counting on their up and comers, like Corey Patterson, Mark Prior and Ronny Cedano only to have everything fall apart and no one in the system stepped up to take their place. Other prospects have been deemed not ready such as Pie and Guzman. (I imagine the C. Patterson experiment gave them cause to wonder if they were pushing them too fast.) I still say the lead-off experiment screwed up Pattersons potential gain for this team. Other prospects such as Jason Dubois, Bobby Hill, Rich Hill, F. Beltran etc. have struggled getting to the majors and many have fallen to the wayside. Hendry has also traded away many top prospects (Mitre, Nolasco, Willis etc.), that they could not find room for on a team that has been floundering, that went on to success with other teams. Despite some success many trades and free agent signing like Alfonseca, Nomar G., Hawkins, Hairston and Walker either bombed or just didn’t fit the team. Plus past successes like Wood, Hollandsworth, Sosa and Lee were also counted on only to have the unforeseen take out those key players with their replacements not stepping up. Hendry can no longer wait to see if they succeed as his job is on the line. If he does not show a great deal of improvement this year he will be gone. He does not want to lose that cushy job and fat paycheck. This team has had serious performance problems while having great potential for several years now. It all points back to bad management starting at the top and filtering down through the system. I am hoping some of the new blood will shake things up. Otherwise this team will need an enema starting at the top of Trib level to set things straight. But that is just this one Cub fan’s opinion.


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