Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Cubs up the middle Posted a thing today about the middle infield on each team. The one for the Cubs finally addresses an issue I've been wondering about since last season.

Who will start at 2B? According to, the race is between Walker, Hairston, and Neifi Perez, and not necessarily in that order. Every article I read includes Neifi and mentions that he "saved the Cubs" last season after Garciaparra got all busted up.

I don't know about "saved," but he definitely filled a sore spot and filled it admirably for someone who came in as a backup.

Which is what he was before the season started.

Which is what he still is.

Which the Cubs seem to have forgotten, although my hope is that they're just posturing to keep him happy and push Hairston and Walker to do better.

Neifi hit .274, which is great for a backup getting over 500 ABs. His defense was awesome. He could be an everyday player, just not on this team.

Not when you have a guy that hits over .300 with a good OBP (Walker) and medium power (15-20HRs).

But the Cubs seem to have soured on Walker, yearning to turn this team into more of small-ball type team, emphasizing defense and fundamentals.

Enter Jerry Hairston Jr. He's healthy now, finally, which is something Cubs fans haven't seen.

While he hasn't seen a full season of success at the ML Level, I think he's ready to break out in a big way, and I think the Cubs are going to try and give him every opportunity to grab that 2B spot.

Let's look at some numbers:
In the minors he's shown he can hit over .300 and with an OBP approaching .400, all the while stealing bases at a decent clip.

But his ML numbers tell the tale, here's what he's done with his playing time in the past few years:

In 2003, in 218 ABs: .271 AVG, .353OBP, 12 2Bs, 2 HRs, 25R, and 14/19 steals.
In 2004, in 287 ABs: .303 AVG, .378OBP, 19 2Bs, 2 HRs, 43R, and 13/21 steals.

Last season he was hurt, putting up:

.261, .336, 25 2B, 4HRs, 53Rs, and 8/17 steals (injury evident especially in these last numbers as well as interviews with him and personnel).

I predict a breakout from him. He's perfectly suited for the number 2 hole in the lineup. Walker is probably on his way out. As much as I would like to see his high OBP and power (and lefthandedness) in the lineup every day, I'm getting a feeling it won't happen.

But injury is the wild card here, and Hairston has that history so maybe we won't see a move until the very end of Spring Training. If Hairston shows he's healthy, I think you'll see him get the job.

Walker will be traded (he's very attractive not only for his skills but because he's cheap) for some relief help or a low-level prospect.

Plus you always have Neifi just in case something happens to Hairston.

This isn't quite as bad as if Bronson Arroyo gets traded out of Boston, but it's similar because Walker signed on for less money with an unspoken understanding that he wouldn't be traded. He signed for less because he wanted to be here.

We'll see how it plays out.


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