Monday, August 15, 2005

night of the living patterson

even as hollywood sequels go, the return of the klown has been something of a disappointment. in a reprise of his disastrous stint before the all-star break this year, much has been made of the klown's new patience at the plate, his improved mechanics, etc. etc., in many quarters.

but has the klown really changed years of enduring failure in a three-week jaunt down at iowa? should we really allow ourselves to believe that to be possible, much less that it's just occured? turning the most-overhyped cub player in recent memory, with a tragic record for more than 2000 major-league at-bats, from the worst everyday player in the majors into the wish-fulfillment of millions of cub fans?

many will believe exactly what they want to. they'll take his august 11 game as proof positive that everything is now peachy, and that k-pat is now a young jim edmonds all over again.

i, however, would rather look at the small sum of his performances since returning. and there isn't a lot to be excited about. in six games, the klown has gone 6-for-22 (.273) with a walk and four strikeouts, a homer and three rbi. on base percentage over those games: an abysmal .304 -- still pegged just at his career obp of .298.

the most talked-about aspect of the return of the klown has been the reduction in his strikeout rate -- and, one must say, only four in six games is an improvement for a guy who had fanned 84 times in 82 games previous. but is it durable -- has patience become a calling card for the notorious free-swinger? will the klown now work himself into hitters counts with regularity?

in short: no. the klown's seen 72 pitches in 23 plate appearances since his callup -- 3.13 per pa. this is actually significantly less than his rate for the year before being sent down (3.41), indicating a greater-than-ever willingness to swing early and often.

don't get me wrong -- i was amazed to watch korey in the sixth last night take the first four pitches he saw from a struggling matt morris to get to 3-0 and then 3-1 before grounding into a fielder's choice. and he took two balls to get a 2-0 pitch to crush his homer in the second. this is a better approach than any we've seen from this guy in a long time.

however, along with that, korey grounded out on the second pitch in the fourth, and failed pathetically to get a bunt down in three attempts in the eighth. and there was friday, where he lined out on the first pitch in the sixth and went flailing on three pitches in the eighth. this is still a shaky, inconsistent player who exists -- even in this, his rehabilitation as the new-and-improved klown -- on the outer fringe of major-league viability.

with jerry hairston now at iowa on rehab, there seems to me to be little evidence that would force the cubs to continue to play the hapless patterson in center once hairston returns. the klown is and remains a loss as a major-league ballplayer, and the odds of his reversing a six-year, 552-game, 2,061-at-bat track record of consistent failure are vanishingly small. if he can play well enough over the next week or so to encourage some other team to accept him as a castoff in a waiver deal, so much the better -- it's time for korey to become someone else's false five-tool fantasy.

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