Friday, May 13, 2005

getting the right lineup

reading derek smart got me fired up again about one of my pet peeves about this cub team -- the total indifference to getting on base as a means of scoring runs. dusty's kids continue to languish in 14th in the NL for on-base percentage and 10th in runs scored.

last monday i wondered aloud about the debut of jason dubois and whether or not he was really capable of helping a team with this particular obstacle, a point examined in more detail today by john hill at cub reporter. but it's hard to begrudge dubois his shot when todd hollandsworth(less) is the other side of the coin.

it's easier, however, to get upset about jerry hairston hitting seventh and eighth -- which is exactly where he's been in the last four games -- especially when corey patterson is flailing wildly about, swatting flies in the leadoff spot and missing steal signs on the bases.

it's not as through hairston has done poorly at the top of the order. in his 68 at-bats there this year so far, the guy has managed a .370 obp (compared to patterson's .329 and neifi's .336). it's true his speed isn't all you'd want: hairston's been caught in four of seven steal attempts. but getting on base is ultimately the primary prerequisite of being driven across the plate.

would it help to move him up? an interesting parallel case is to be found in the atlanta braves thusfar this year, who rank 13th in team obp but 3rd in runs scored. they don't have a particular power advantage -- team slugging .430 and 36 homers are good but less than the cubs.

the difference, however, is in who is getting on and where they're hitting. chipper jones is roughly analogous to derrek lee, hitting a hot third. but the braves have marcus giles -- sporting a .387 obp -- batting second and leading the team in runs scored. they've also got help from andruw jones, with an obp of .360 and slugging .516 in the fourth and fifth spots. even with rafael furcal suffering a terrible start in the leadoff spot, brian jordan jumping around the middle of the order and raul mondesi at the mendoza line, the braves are scoring runs with these three high-percentage players strung together. giles, jones and jones are 1-2-3 in runs scored for atlanta.

the cubs, in contrast, not only aren't stringing hairston and lee together -- they don't have three regulars with an obp over .350, and probably won't until todd walker comes back. this only serves to underscore how important it may be to continue to play hairston -- probably in left -- when walker reclaims second base. a first three of hairston/walker/lee might stand a chance of really improving the cubs scoring potential.

will it happen? beats me, cub fans. who knows what dusty's thinking as he shuffles the order around, seemingly at random? but for my money, hairston should be hitting first and patterson fifth or sixth on this team.

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