Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Do the Cubs want Roberts now?

At least one Chicago Sun-Times writer certainly does.

Nothing like second-guessing after the fact.

No one was complaining during the season when the Cubs rolled up a 97-64 record -- best in the NL. Baseball analysts and writers were praising the Cubs for refusing to offer too much to the Orioles for Roberts, and maybe they were right after all. They had a very successful season, but then something completely shocking happened: the Cubs actually played poorly in the postseason. Imagine that.

Would Roberts have helped the Cubs? Of course. He's one of the best second basemen in MLB. But it's not like the Cubs' own starting second baseman, Mark DeRosa, performed poorly during the season. Mike Fontenot, who also received plenty of starts at second base (49), also played well.

But Wittenmyer wants to bring up the absence of Roberts as a big reason for the Cubs' postseason failure this season, even though I'm sure the Cubs would have been better off with any other really good player they somehow could have acquired at some point but didn't.

"First, they have no left-handed hitters whom opponents respect. If you don't believe that, ask yourself how many pitches a Dodgers left-hander threw against the Cubs in seven regular-season and three postseason games. The answer: none."

Can you guess which 2008 batting numbers belong to which player (Roberts, DeRosa, and Fontenot)?

Player A: .285 BA, .376 OBP, .857 OPS, .275 BA/.842 OPS vs. RHP
Player B: .305 BA, .395 OBP, .909 OPS, .302 BA/.911 OPS vs. RHP
Player C: .296 BA, .378 OBP, .828 OPS, .289 BA/.818 OPS vs. RHP

The answers: A is DeRosa, B is Fontenot, and C is Roberts. I'd say the Cubs were fine at second base, and that's not even counting DeRosa's 21 home runs (16 off of RHP). Roberts also wouldn't have added much more in terms of hitting right-handed pitching to the Cubs -- Fontenot and DeRosa did just as good, if not better. Apparently taking one former Orioles second baseman (Fontenot) isn't enough.

Wittenmyer also says the Cubs needed someone to provide "better balance and top-of-the-order table-setting ability." And that obviously wouldn't have hurt; Roberts is an outstanding leadoff hitter, one of the best in baseball. But the Cubs didn't lose because they didn't have Roberts. They lost because they played really bad baseball for three games against a good team that hit well, pitched well, and didn't make stupid errors. No team, not even one that wins 97 games, can afford to play so poorly in the playoffs.

And what's with the bashing of Alfonso Soriano?

"And of all people, Alfonso Soriano alluded to it after Saturday night's elimination when he suggested the Cubs aren't built to hit in the postseason. That starts with Soriano and his all-or-nothing traits as a leadoff hitter."

I agree, Soriano probably isn't the most ideal leadoff hitter. But he's not the one filling out the lineup cards. Soriano (.280/.344/.532, 29 HR, 76 runs) had a solid season, but the Cubs lineup didn't make much sense anyway. As shown above, Fontenot got on base a lot when he played, as did DeRosa. Why couldn't they have just hit first and second in the lineup?

Either way, the Cubs had a lot more problems against the Dodgers than just missing a table-setter at the top. When a team only scores six runs in three games after leading the NL in runs scored the entire season, the problems (and answers) were in the Cubs' clubhouse, not another team's.

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