When people discuss the undervalued aspects of baseball, there's the usual suspects: the lost art of bunting, proper base running and depth amongst the bench, but there's one aspect that seems to be forgotten all too often, the table setters.
The Cubs appear to be set at the leadoff spot. As long as Lou's in town, Alfonso Soriano will be leading off, period. Say what you will about his lack of batting average and on-base percentages well as the high strikeout rate, but when he bats leadoff, more times than not, the Cubs win.
So the next question emerges: Who will bat second?
The Cubs have three leading candidates for the spot. Of course, Lou could always play musical chairs and rotate different guys, but once a player gets an opportunity and excels, one would hope he wouldn't relinquish it.
Let's examine the three leading candidates.
1. Ryan Theriot
Why he should bat second: By looking at the numbers, his career .290/.362 AVG/OBP appear to be acceptable for the two-hole. Theriot puts the ball in play and excels in "small ball", such as bunting and putting the ball in play. Theriot can also swipe a bag, stealing 22 last season.
Why he shouldn't bat second: Despite stealing 22 bags last season, he was caught 13 times. Also, as a young player, he's apt to expand his strike zone and when Soriano's your lead-off man, you must have a patient hitter in the two slot.
2. Mike Fontenot
Why he should bat second: There'd be no better way for Lou to give Mike even more confidence than to give him the keys to the second spot. He'd also split up the two big right-handed bats, Soriano and Lee, and provide balance atop the lineup. Not to mention his .305/.395 AVG/OBP
Why he shouldn't bat second: Fontenot came up with clutch hits last season and although his numbers were similar to Theriot, he had half as many at-bats. He also struck out 51 times in just 243 at-bats and only stole two bases.
3. Kosuke Fukudome
Why he should bat second: Many credit Fukudome for bringing a more patient approach to the Cubs lineup last season. As the most experienced of the three candidate, Kosukue proved he can get on base and, when called upon, steal a bag or two.
Having a reliable, veteran left-handed bat in the two spot will also make Lou sleep easier at night.
Why he shouldn't bat second: Fukudome was hardly a consistent player last season. Lou also wasn't pleased with Kosuke's lack of progress and ended up in the proverbial dog-house. Only posting a .257/.359 AVG/OBP, Kosuke would have to boost those numbers.
Many have pencilled in Theriot, but some feel it isn't carved in stone quite yet. Lou has several options to choose from, which is a good problem to have. Cub fans hope that Lou not only finds the best bat, but also sticks with it. Who do you think should bat second?
Be sure and comment and vote in my poll.
Thanks for reading.