Filed: Mar. 16, 2009
You know, like most Cubs fans, I've been mostly confused at many of the Cubs' moves made since the end of last season.
Whether it was letting Mark DeRosa go for a couple of middling relievers, dumping your closer for a fairly unproven one, choosing to start Mike Fontenot, expecting a fielder to play in 135-plus games—when he's done so only once in his career—or thinking that Paul Bako could give you something that Koyie Hill or Mark Johnson couldn't, the Cubs seem to have placed a lot of faith in players not only performing, but excelling in new roles.
Well, they've upped the ante with news that manager Lou Piniella has reserved a spot on the 25-man roster for Micah Hoffpauir.
'Hoffpauir's fine. We're going to use him to rest Derrek [Lee] at first base and also use him some in the corner [outfield spots]. Another reason for an extra outfielder, too, is when you rest an outfielder, you need somebody to pick up Hoffpauir [for defense] late in the game.''
'Scuse me? Now, I'm going to put aside for now the question of why Lou wants to advertise what his positions are set three week ahead of Opening Day, with guys like Luis Rivas, Andres Blanco, and So Taguchi playing their asses off for a job.
I do that because it's probably more relevant to question the structure and composition of the team.
Will the Cubs be carry less pitchers? Not likely, according to the same published reports. They'll stay at 12, wise given the ineffectiveness of some of the bullpen candidates this spring.
Given that there are already five full-time outfielder in place (Soriano, Fukudome, Bradley, Gathright, Johnson), are the Cubs really able to afford the luxury of six of them, particularly at the expense of the left side of the infield, where there is neither a reasonable replacement to spell Ramirez or Theriot.
And how exactly to you find six outfielder at-bats? It's certainly nice to spell Soriano and Bradley early in the season, but there are plenty of off-days in the first six weeks, means someone languishes on the bench.
That's probably Gathright, making that signing even more dubious.
All this is before one even asks the question of whether or not Micah is a suitable pinch-hitter off the bench. I haven't seen it.
I know that Lou likes the guy a lot, and I respect the way that he makes a commitment to his players. Here's the thing though. Hoffpauir is not a professional hitter, and he should hope to have the career of Daryle Ward, the player he replaces.
Instead, Micah is a big slugger, with holes in his swing, and contact issues.
Now, you can get away with that in some instances, especially if you're starting a few times a week to keep your timing crisp, and inflate your stats a bit off of weaker starters.
But in the late-innings of most games, Micah can expect to see guys who not only have popping fastballs, but can spot sliders on a dime, much to his detriment. Premier relievers who have no problem putting it low and inside consistently, which still looks to be his weakness.
And not to put too fine a point on it, but his .231/.286/.231 line as a pinch-hitter would seem to prove this out.
Bottom line, Micah as a pinch-hitter is a square-peg, round-hole scenario on a team with a growing number of them.
These things usually have a nice way of working themselves out after the first couple of months, but in my opinion this move looks to cost the Cubs early while they come to realize it.