Sunday, March 20, 2005

Cubs infield defense

On Sunday in Peoria, a major flaw in Jim Hendry's 2005 version of the Cubs unveiled itself. Infield defense. Aramis Ramirez had one error at third on a hard hit groundball. Nomar had a hat trick. Three throwing errors to first. Nomar's error with 2 out in the 4th led to a meltdown by Sergio Mitre which ended up costing him 4 unearned runs (3 courtesy of a Brian Giles bomb). Mitre has to make pitches to earn the fifth starters spot, but 4 and 5 out innings have killed a lot of big league wannabes.

This spring the talk has focused on how good the Cub infield will hit. They hit great on Sunday. Garciaparra had two HR's and 3 RBi. Before we get ahead of ourselves and start making the comparisons to Santo, Kessinger, Beckert and Banks we have to consider there is another half to game of baseball. "Defense wins championships" and "strong up the middle" are cliches for a reason. The Cubs are going to find it very difficult to win games if their defense routinely gives 29 or 30 outs per game.

Besides Derek Lee the Cub infield defense is very poor. Ramirez had an outstanding year defensively in 2004. I doubt he will repeat that. We all know about the problems Todd Walker has at 2B. The talk in Boston was what the BoSox lost offensively they made up for and then some with the defense of Orlando Cabrera.

This is not a permanent solution but it may help. I'd like to see Walker in LF and get Jerry Hairston in at 2B. Hairston is smooth around 2B and might take some of the pressure off of Garciaparra at SS. It won't happen. But hey, it can't get much worse than the performance on Sunday.

Mitre didn't get nay help from his defense on Sunday but he did not look like a 5th starter option for the Cubs. Mitre is not even Frankie Castillo. If Wood and/or Prior are going to be out for awhile hopefully Jim Hendry is ready to scan the waiver wire and find the 2005 version of Glendon Rusch.

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