among so many other reasons, his walk in the second of last night's laugher in phoenix. he exhibited an eye and patience -- taking four pitches to get to 3-1 -- and then wonderful bat control, fouling off several strikes and borderline pitches until drawing ball four.
this is a major-league hitter at work. his numbers are no mistake, nor is their remarkable consistency. his is at the peak of his powers at age 28, and an approach like he exhibited yesterday should guarantee a return to an OBP in the .380 range. lee shows great power as well (which will look even better in a post-steroid world, if that's what we're entering) and set a career high in total bases in 2004. one hopes corey patterson is watching him.
moreover, lee is immaculate with his glove, really an artist. i watched him pick an awful one-hopper from aramis last night (on an easy bouncer) and thought immediately of the consequences of lee's prowess around the bag for the cub infield. ramirez gaffed 33 times in 2003, 19 in 2002, 25 in 2001. last season, with lee at first, just ten errors. similarly, nomar's fielding percentage jumped to a near-career-high upon joining lee's infield. lee is saving a couple of mediocre defenders (not to mention all of us) from their long throws across the diamond.
what effect does that have? in 2003, the cubs allowed 64 unearned runs; in 2002, a dismal 81; in 2001 the tally was 58. in 2004, that number dropped to just 44. lee is paying off on both sides of the coin, offensive and defensive.
this is the kind of player that any team should love to have. let's hope the cubs understand what a tremendous asset (and value) he is.