Sunday, May 31, 2009

3B or Not 3B

Today in the Sun-Times, Chris DeLuca makes his case that Jake Fox should be the Cubs starting third baseman until Aramis Ramirez comes back, or that he proves that he really is the worst fielder ever.

The problem is that you can't hide a bad third baseman. It is why the Brewers moved Ryan Braun to left field. He was too much of a butcher at a key infield position despite being one of the best young hitters in baseball.

Lou and his coaches need to ask themselves how good this guy's bat is versus how awful his glove is. Will Fox have any lateral movement? If not, the whole left side of the infield is in trouble because the Cubs already feature a range-challenged shortstop who couldn't make the throw from the hole even if he managed to get to a ball hit there.

Will Fox be able to charge a dribbler or bunt to the left side and make the throw? That would be key in playing a team like the Dodgers with Pierre and Furcal at the top of the lineup.

How accurate is his arm? Is he going to throw the first half of a potential double-play ball into right field? Is he going to charge a ball and throw towards first while on the run and end up tossing it into the dugout?

Third base is nowhere to put someone who is so bad in the field that they have been hesitant to even put him in the outfield.

I would love to see what Fox could do with some regular at-bats. The Cubs' lineup could certainly use a consistent power bat to help ease the pain of losing our best hitter, but there is no guarantee that he is going to continue hitting .400 at this level. There is, however, an almost certain guarantee that he will have numerous chances in the field at third, and that he will absolutely give the opposing team extra outs.

The strength of this team is supposed to be the pitching staff; primarily the starters. You can't expect these guys to get four or more outs in an inning repeatedly without allowing runs to score. Just ask Carlos how that worked out in Game 2 of the playoffs last year.

The Cubs have held a very good Los Angeles offense to a grand total of three runs so far in three games. While we can not expect the pitching staff to maintain a 1.00 ERA for long, we can realistically hope that more times than not, they will allow fewer than four runs in a game.

Geovany Soto is starting to hit. Milton Bradley is starting to hit. Derrek Lee is starting to hit. Mike Fontenot is starting to hit. Really, only Soriano has gone on one of his obligatory cold-as-ice streaks that makes everyone hate him. I don't think asking this offense for four runs per game is asking for too much.

If I'm Lou, I don't mess around with a situation that seems to be reverting back to expected results from the current starters. Maybe I give Soriano a day off and stick Fox in left for a night just to get him a start where he can do the least amount of damage in the field, but Soriano is the starting left fielder and any breather would be of the one game variety.

Otherwise, when Lou says he is going to get him some at-bats off the bench and during games in the AL parks as DH, I think that's the best we can expect. Plus, if he is comfortable getting only one at-bat per game as a pinch hitter (as his 3 for 4 start would seem to suggest), the Cubs haven't had a decent right-handed power bat off the bench for quite some time. That is where he could be truly valuable.


Meatpants said...'s tough to win in the AL when you have three designated hitters. It's nearly impossible in the NL....

Tim McGinnis said...

Soriano is not good, but he is not so bad that his offense doesn't easily make up for his poor glovework. Bradley doesn't have any range anymore, but he has a good glove and a decent, accurate arm.

I have no problems with them in the field, my concern with the Cubs defense is having a shortstop with no range or arm, coupled with mediocre second basemen.

Ramirez is damn good by comparison and it would be hard to put Stonehand Fox in that infield at third.

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