How Jake Fox Will Fit In with the Cubs
The recent call-up of Cubs' power-hitting prospect Jake Fox has fueled plenty of speculation about how he will fit Chicago's mold. With Derek Lee and Micah Hoffpauir occupying his comfort zone at first base, it would appear that Fox is a square peg squeezing into a round hole.
However, there is one area Fox may cover perfectly while he enjoys his time in the majors—go-to pinch hitter.
When Lou Piniella took over as Cubs manager, he brought in Daryle Ward, an OK hitter working as a liability on the field. Ward worked as a pinch hitter for the Cubs' division championship teams.
In 2007, Ward fit the spot perfectly, hitting for a .268 average in 21 pinch hitting attempts with four RBI and a .423 OBP. 2008 was unkind to Ward, however, as he hit for a lousy .145 average in 55 attempts, with two HR and nine RBI and a .294 OBP.
After Ward left the game, Pinella turned to another left-handed bat as his No. 1 pinch hitter, Micah Hoffpauir. Hoffpauir has had 10 pinch-hitting chances thus far, grabbing four hits and three RBI in those chances.
However, a slew of injuries to the team, especially to Derek Lee, has forced Hoffpauir out of the role and onto the field at most times this season. The Cubs found themselves mired in an eight-game slump, including a six-game road stretch where they scratched across five runs.
Plenty of Cubs fans had been screaming his name for offensive production, and they aren't without validation. In AAA Iowa, Fox hit for a .423 average with 17 HR and 50 RBI...in 30 games. Fans scrambled to find a place on the roster to place Fox.
Standing in the box before 30,000 cheering fans, Fox made his 2009 debut as a pinch hitter. The result was a drive off the right-center field wall, bringing in a much-needed third insurance run.
There is no reason to not keep Fox in the spot in which he came through on Wednesday. Fox has been a liability on the field in Iowa, committing three errors in those 30 games and 52 in his career in the minors. With a Gold Glove winner in Lee and a capable backup in Hoffpauir, there is no need to have him on the field at all.
Hoffpauir certainly fits the strategy involved in matching up against right-handed relievers in those pinch-hitting situations, but why can't Fox also be used there?
With the failing of Joey Gathright, Aaron Miles, and other left-handed players so desired by the Cubs in the offseason, is it possible that a right-handed hitter is actually the best fit for the Cubs?
Piniella stated before the Cubs' win Wednesday that he plans to use Fox in pinch-hitting situations and as a DH when Interleague Play starts, and it would appear the Cubs have finally found a right peg for 2009.
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