Tuesday, June 07, 2005

heaven forfend!

i'm just watching the game here and -- please indulge my cub-fan paranoia -- i'm worried about derrek lee.

lee's year has been nothing short of awesome -- he's leading in all three triple-crown catagories coming into today's game. one can't praise him enough, and i've no idea where the cubs would be without him.

but lee has an uncharacteristic four strikeouts in the last four games. yeah, i know -- he's also 6-for-18 with three doubles, 2 rbi and 2 runs scored. and he went 16-for-33 on the road trip just past. but watching him tonight has been disturbing.

lee went looking on three pitches in the first.

then -- on a 3-0 pitch with two on and one away -- he dribbled one out in front of the plate, enabling greg zaun to get out from behind the plate and toss him out.

his third look at josh towers was even more strange. lee worked a 2-1 count, and towers offered a pretty meaty fastball over the outer half -- the kind of ball that lee has made a living driving to the rightfield gap this year. but lee flicked at it, harmlessly fouling it away. the frustration was immediately apparent in lee's reaction. and before i could stop myself, i unconsciously muttered, "he's struggling."

looking back at his gamelog, you can see how he began to flatten out a bit after the first week of may. in fact, from may 7 to 26, lee hit just .216 with 18 strikeouts over 60 at-bats -- he is human, after all. while his recent streak began on may 27 and cleaned up his may splits, it came against two pretty weak pitching staffs in colorado and los angeles, the comeback start of woody williams and lefty torch darrell may. with tougher pitching ahead, it's not beyond speculation to say that this might be the last hurrah for the kind of production that has allowed lee to singlehandedly carry the cub offense.

i think any rational observer has to look at lee's astounding start and realize that -- whatever one wants to happen, however good he is (and he is quite good) -- this can't last. derrek lee simply isn't going to hit .385 and hit 50 home runs while driving in 150. and i think his return to earth may have begun -- at a pretty inopportune time.

lee's batting for the fourth time now, worked a 3-1 count -- and fouled off two straight fat fastballs that came right down main street from pete walker before fighting off an offspeed pitch into shallow left for his first hit tonight. each foul came with more headshaking and frustration.


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