Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Virtue

From Jason Stark's latest:

Sori You're Gone Dept.: In the Cubs' first eight games without Alfonso Soriano they averaged 8.4 runs a game. They looked so good, in fact, that some scouts say they like this lineup better without Soriano than with him.

"Soriano is a first-pitch hacker, and that goes against everything Lou [Piniella] has been preaching to that club about patience," said one scout. "They're the most patient team in the big leagues right now. What they've been doing is grinding down starters and getting into those secondary relievers. But Soriano doesn't let them do that because he's hacking early in the count. To me, Soriano's a valuable guy when he's stealing 40-50 bases. And I'm not sure he's going to do that anymore."

While the comments about A Sor's diminished value find agreement here, it's the point about plate patience that is spot on. In last night's game, something very, very odd happened.

Through the first four innings, no Cub player swung at the first pitch thrown by Franklin Morales. Now, this wasn’t one of those situations where 10 guys batted. The Cubs went through the order twice before someone swung at the first pitch. Who broke the string? Rich Hill.

It wasn't until inning 5 when Aramis Ramirez fouled off a fastball that a Cub swung at Morales' first offering. And A Ram did so with Derrek Lee on third and two outs. Hard to fault A Ram for trying to drive in a run at that point.

Five innings and nearly 2 times through the lineup without swinging at pitch #1? That's how I used to play High Heat 2005! That's not a trait we've seen from a Cub team ever!

This level of patience is something intelligent fans have been begging to see for years. All it took was a year of Lou Piniella’s leadership and Kosuke Fukudome’s example to get everyone else on board.

What needs to be seen next is if Mr. Soriano gets this. Clearly the Cubs have learned a new trick. A Sor needs to be on board with this when he gets off the DL or beaten with a fungo until he does.

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