Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Earn It Business

It's not exactly a secret that Derrek Lee did not have a good year last year. Even he knew it:

"I got out of whack in the second half," he said. "It was a poor second half, as simple as that. It seems like that first series in Houston after the [All-Star] break was bad and it just snowballed from there. I've got to find a way to be more consistent throughout the year instead of just half the season."

That's not exactly correct. Derrek reminded us all of 2005 with a 2008 April that looked like .364/.437/.682 with 8 homers, 23 RBIs and a 1:1 K/BB ratio. But it wasn't after the All Star Break when he cooled off. Derrek cooled off in May. And kept cool the rest of the year. Over his final 572 plate appearances, Lee slumped to .275/.344/.415 with 12 homers, 67 RBI and a 1.86 K/BB ratio.

His post All Star Break numbers aren't much different (.266/.343/.390, 5 homers, 34 RBI and a 1.86 K/BB ratio). Lee was a shadow of what he was in May.

As the linked article points out, Lee's spring hasn't been much to talk about (.179 average with no homers, one double). This raises the question of where to bat Derrek in the lineup.

It's hard to justify batting him third from the start of the season. He's really only been a great #3 hitter for one of his Chicago seasons. And rumor has it that he actually won a World Series where he spent most of the season batting in the 6th and 5th spots.

It's even harder to justify Lee in the 3 spot with the other options available. One would think that Aramis Ramirez and Milton Bradley would be more effective than Lee batting third. And, maybe even Alfonso Soriano could go slumming and force himself to live with the dishonor of batting in the spot where conventional wisdom says the best hitter bats.

Hopefully, Lou Piniella sees all this and will adjust on the fly. Derrek Lee needs to re-earn the #3 slot in the batting order. His performance from last year does not merit an automatic return to that slot.

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