Shifting Those Deckchairs

The Cubs have recalled Corey Patterson from Iowa, sending Ronny Cedeno down. It's a good, bad and ugly wrapped up in one single transaction. Good When the Cubs first promoted Cedeno on April 21st, I commented...
Cedeno, still only 22, is not yet ready for the major leagues, and at this stage sitting on the major-league bench and getting infrequent playing time [Ö] is the last thing his development needs. The major-league bench may well be where in the long-term his future most probably lies, but, here and now, as long as thereís a still chance that Cedenoís bat may be good enough to ultimately justify something more than that, the Cubs have to give it that chance. If that means a woeful veteran instead, for once, so be it.
Thankfully, the Cubs soon signed Enrique Wilson on May 17th, and Cedeno was allowed to return to the minor leagues, where he unfortunately hit so well that the Cubs decided on June 28th to outright Wilson and give Cedeno another chance in the majors. Then I wrote...
Regarding Cedeno, my take on him is this: whatever happens, I want him playing everyday this year, working on his game, upon adding the walks and the power that in the long-term he needs if heís to not precariously rely too heavily on average as his sole source of offensive productivity. Obviously that is something that would assuredly happen at Iowa. But whether thatíll now happen in Chicago with Dusty around is much more debatable, and whether it should happen, whether Cedenoís capable of outperforming even Neifi right now by an extent large enough to justify the service time heíd accrue doing so, is another matter too. Iím sceptical on all counts, and as bad as Wilson was, he did have two things going for him: he wasnít just 22, and he had fully established his performance level, albeit at ìuselessî. Thereís a danger Cedeno could go the same way if the Cubs arenít careful, but letís hope the Cubs know what theyíre doing.
Apparently they didn't, or they disagreed on what they were doing, because Cedeno amassed a meagre 7 starts and 41 plate appearances in six weeks on the major league roster. And, for what it's worth, those six weeks, in conjunction with his stint in the majors earlier in the year, mean that Cedeno has more than fifty days of major league service time, and thus he'll not be eligible for Rookie of the Year honours next year. This is, officially, his rookie year, and the Cubs have had him waste it as Neifi's bat boy. Cedeno now, finally, goes back to the minors. So that's the good aspect to this transaction. He'll doubtless be back up again if Garciaparra re-injures himself or when rosters expand in September, whichever comes first. Bad Well, the Corey Patterson bit of the transaction. I wrote about this just last Friday...
It's possible the Cubs for a while considered recalling Corey Patterson [to replace Hairston on the roster]. Such a move would be a mistake. The Cubs sent Patterson down in order that they could work on his game and get him to the stage where he could once again be a good major league hitter. While Corey has reportedly been working on the processes - being more selective, laying off the high fastball, going the other way and not pulling everything, and so on - the results as yet haven't been entirely forthcoming. His walk and strikeout rates have importantly both headed very much in the right directions (7 walks and 15 strikeouts in 86 plate appearances), but he's still not hitting the ball particularly well, as evidenced by his .234 batting average. Given that we've heard all this talk about Patterson working on his game before, in camp this spring for instance, waiting until Corey's supposed new processes are yielding exactly the kind of results that'd make even Corey sit up and take notice is the right way to go. It's only that way that the processes will stick and the confidence return.
Corey Patterson has had a good four days since, with a couple of multi-hit games (including a multi-homer game last night) boosting his line at Iowa to .297/.366/.505 with 8 walks and 19 strikeouts in 102 plate appearances. All the same, that's still more strikeouts than is preferable, reports from those at the games suggest that not much has changed as far as Corey's approach goes, and the fact that three or four days can have such a profound effect upon his numbers is proof that the sample size isn't particularly significant, nor the success or the confidence anything more than transitory at this stage. He should have stayed in the minors as long as was necessary for them to become a little more permanent. Ugly It's the only word to describe the way this season has turned these last few games. And because things here have become so ugly, it wouldn't really have mattered had Corey stayed in the minor leagues, because, contrary to Dusty's assertion over the weekend, we don't need him in Chicago at all. Murton, Burnitz and Lawton from left to right is acceptable in every aspect save outfield arm, and even if it wasn't satisfactory, with the Cubs not making the playoffs, what difference would that make anyway? What freaking difference will Corey make? The biggest one as far I can see is that Matt Murton will find his backside glued to the bench once again. Murton isn't a great prospect, for he lacks the customary power of corner outfielders, but he's a decent one, and he deserves a shot this year to prove he should be here next year and beyond. In limited time so far he's been passing with flying colours. As a reward, he'll now sit and watch, seen and not heard, unloved.
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Comments

John Hill, Thanks for the information. I always enjoy reading your writing.

God help us all if Corey comes back and turns out to be a good number 7 hitter.

Everyone will wonder why he wasn't put there from day-1, why he was continually bounced around the lineup, why he was forced into a lead-off role he wasn't comfortable with, and why someone failed to realize the pressure on Corey would be significantly reduced batting him 6th (in his comfort zone) or 7th, thereby increasing his chances for success.

All this experimenting while all the time, coming out of spring training, you had a better option (Hairston) on the bench, an option who'd have probably done as good as what we have in left field now.

We could have gone the whole season with Hairston in left, CPat in center, and Burnitz in right. Hairston could have batted lead-off, with Walker batting 2nd. Holly would have been the 4th outfielder off the bench and spelled DLee at 1st occasionally.

Would Corey have struggled as mightly as he did being moved from spot to spot in the lineup on a seemingly daily basis? Would there have even been a reason to send him down?

Or... were Corey's problems simply a result of how he was used and the unrealistic expectations of him by Cubs management?

Hell, we'll NEVER know now!

Oh, this just gets better and better...

I don't see why Murton can't be a good prospect simply because he doesn't have power at a "traditional" power spot. Maybe I'm naive but in today's game, if he's going to hit for average/OBP (which, I might add, is something this Cubs team needs), why can't we just make up the HR's elsewhere?

Maybe I'm just too big of a fan of thinking outside the box.

Because it's more expensive to add power at non-power positions, Buck Eyes.

Because it's more expensive to add power at non-power positions, Buck Eyes.

If we sign Nomar for a few years, God forbid, and Michael Barrett does much of the same, the Cubs have enough power from non power positions to warrant Matt Murton in LF. Especially if Corey Patterson can play like he did in 2004, which still wasn't great. The Cubs don't need the power, they need less out machines. That's something Matt Murton can provide.

Anyone ever hear of Ichiro Suzuki? A corner outfielder not known for power. We've had power corner guys since I can remember (and I remember Hank Sauer) and gone nowhere. Runs Runs Runs Runs Runs win ballgames. Runs. We've led the league in homeruns the past few years, and what did it get us? Baserunners score runs. Let's try to add a few baserunners and not assign power requirements to a defensive position.

Ienpw, I'm not saying that Murton doesn't deserve to play in left field. I'll take .300/.370/.440 for $316k at any position, and I believe that's what Murton's capable of, and that's exactly why "heís a decent [prospect], and he deserves a shot this year to prove he should be here next year and beyond." And by here, I mean in the starting lineup, in left field, as I'm sure you'll have discerned from my obvious dislike of young players being bat boys to inconsequential veterans.

However, that still doesn't mean that Murton is a great prospect. Some people here seem to have really gone over the top in their reaction to Murton based on the fact that Murton hit .342 at Double-A this year and is hitting .400 in limited time in the majors, and my statement that "he's not a great prospect" was intented to try and quell that kind of talk. In the long term Murton is not going to hit for those kind of averages, but unless he learns to, or he learns to draw walks at a ridiculous rate, or he adds power, and adding power is the easiest of those three, then when Murton's salary rises, he's going to become a more and more marginal player.

Matt Murton isn't Ichiro Suzuki. He doesn't have the same bat control, arm, defence, baserunning or star status in Japan. And even then, Ichiro is only worth his $11m per contract (comfortably) because of the enormity of that star status and the markets that it opens up for the Mariners. I'm not sure the McDonough, Georgia market is quite as lucrative.

Not making outs, 368, is very important when it comes to creating runs. Murton fits in very nicely now, then, since we actually had a good deal of power up the middle with Barrett, Walker, Nomar and, seemingly, Patterson. But, Corey aside, we've had to forsake defence there, and at third base too, in order to afford that power.

[ - - 1B - LF - RF - 3B - CF - 2B - SS - C - - ]

That's the defensive spectrum. The further right you go, the more important defence is and the more expensive offence is. In order to be able to afford that offence to right of the spectrum, we've skimped on defence. As a result, our pitching staff doesn't always get the necessary fielding support. So we end up giving back in the field the runs that our bats create. So there are three options. One, we acquire more offence. And the easiest place to do given our current lineup is in LF and RF. Two, we acquire more defence. But in acquiring more defence, if that means less Barrett or Garciaparra, we give up offence. The easiest place to get that offence back is still in LF or RF. Or three, we expend more resources, and we acquire offence and defence. We say, "sorry, Nomar, nice bat, but not enough glove, so we need Alex Rodriguez". "Hey, Barrett, nice bat, but you don't know how a rundown works, we're trading for Joe Mauer". And, ultimately, "hey, Murton, your hair's not bad, but we prefer Manny Ramirez's". Either way, Murton's just not a great prospect that you build your team around, and that's the impression that I get of the way some people think about him...

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