Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lee, Ramirez and Barrett

Midway through 2003 Jim Hendry added young Aramis Ramirez to the Cub middle of the lineup which already included sluggers Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou. This gave the Cubs a fierce middle of the lineup. In 2004 this middle of the lineup would have strong pieces added to surround the sluggers. Before the season, Jim Hendry bolstered the Cubs offensive attack adding Derrek Lee and Michael Barrett. He added these two to a lineup that had nearly won the NL Pennant the year before. At the trading deadline he shocked all of us by adding shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. The Cubs had probably the best everyday lineup they have fielded since the late 60's. Still things weren't meant to be with the 2004 Cubs. Following the Cubs 2004 collapse, the final week of the season, Jim Hendry decided that he was going to change the core of the Cubs offense. Gone were aging sluggers Sammy Sosa and Mo Alou. At that point Hendry and Dusty Baker committed to building the offense around three core players: Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Michael Barrett.

Since the final week of 2004, the Cubs have disappointed us fans with 2+ lousy seasons. Injuries to the pitching staff have repeatedly been used as an excuse. What about the offense? The offense has not been the same since Sosa and Alou departed at the end of 2004. This despite some real talent in the lineup, including the Lee/Ramirez/Barrett trio. All three are leading offensive players at their positions. Still even with these three, something with the offense has not worked. It has not worked since the start of 2005.

While the Cubs runs per game fell dramatically from the 4.87 in 2004 to 4.34 in 2005, it rose again in 2006 to 4.42 runs per game and thus far this season the Cubs are averaging 4.62 runs per game. Those numbers really don't tell you the whole story, so you have to look at where they rank compared to the rest of the NL. Over the same time (2004-present) their rank in the league in runs scored has went from 7th to 9th to 15th and stands at 8th in the NL this year. Besides 2006 the Cubs have really been middle of the road in the league in scoring runs over the past few years.

Still I think this is a case where the numbers above don't tell the whole story. The Cubs in 2005, 2006 and thus far in 2007 have not been able to put up the offensive numbers needed to win. While Lee, Ramirez and Barrett have all had good stats for players at their positions, something is just missing. The team more times than not has been unable to add on to leads, they have been unable to put teams away and the offense has been very inconsistant. These issues are not new to the club this season. They have been the same issues since 2004 ended.

Now it is not fair to blame all of this on Lee, Ramirez and Barrett. There is plenty of blame to go to all the other players that have taken AB's in Cub blue the past few seasons. But, these three are the main three everyday players that have been with this club over that period of time. They are the core that this team has been built around offensively, and something just is not working with this offense.

Maybe one of the issues is how right handed they are. The Cub offense has been very right handed heavy as long as I can remember, so it's no surprise that Hendry's core all swing the bat from that side. I can't put my finger on the problem. In 2005 Derrek Lee and Michael Barrett both had career years and won Silver Slugger Awards. Ramirez just puts up offensive numbers every year. But something is missing. Winning baseball games is missing. Like it or not, these guys have all played a part in that.

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