Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Flipping, flopping and musing

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So Lou changes the lineup after two games and puts Soriano back in the leadoff spot? What's the big deal? Piniella's still well behind the pace he set last year when he used 125 different lineups. And Soriano -- well, he may be ill-suited for the leadoff spot, but he's even less suited for No. 2.

And let's be clear about one thing. The move was inevitable as soon as the Cubs closed spring training without getting Baltimore leadoff man Brian Roberts in a trade.

``There are other reasons why I put him in the 2 hole [in spring training] for godssake. You know?'' Piniella said before today's game, clearly referring to the anticipation of a possible trade for a leadoff man and not wanting to spring a lineup change on Soriano on Opening Day.

So Soriano's back in the leadoff spot. It's not perfect. Not by a long shot. But they won a division with him there last year, and when he's hot, it's not the worst thing in the world for him to have him as high in the lineup as possible to get him the most at-bats possible.

Besides, the bigger issue might be what to eventually do with Fukudome. I mean, he's got to bat second, right? Forget protecting Ramirez in the five hole -- what good is protection for the run-producers if nobody's on base?

So maybe Soriano moving back to his comfort zone at the top of the order -- as this roster is put together right now -- should be embraced by Cub fans. And as far as the other lineup changes that are sure to follow throughout the year, bring them on. Hey, maybe one of them will eventually include Roberts.

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What are you, the anti-Mariotti? Soriano should not be leading off under any circumstance.

Lou knows what he's doing. Also, stop using the "125 different lineups" like it's a bad thing. The Braves had the fewest different lineups last season at 86 and the Cardinals had the most with 150. Neither one of those teams went to the playoffs. However, Doug Melvin's Diamondbacks had the second most different lineups (146) and they got to the NLCS. The bottom line is, managers need to adjust things when they see fit and they don't need to provide a rationale for the decision.

Has anyone noticed the Cubs 1-2 hitters already have only reached base 5 out of 28 plate appearances through 3 games? This insistence on keeping Soriano and Theriot at the top of the order is dooming the Cubs to failure.

Theriot had a .318 OBA/.316 SA against righties last year, which makes him at best an 8 hitter. On a winning team though, he should be a utility player.

As far as Soriano goes, he's going to kill the Cubs at leadoff. Where anyone got the idea this guy is a superstar is a mystery. He's a career .326 OBA/.515 SA. No one says Lee or Ramirez are superstars and they are career .367/.502 and .336/.500, respectively. Sure, he adds steals. But a steal is worth less than a walk, and it doesn't make up for the low OBA. I see him batting behind both of those guys, as both of their numbers are dragged done by the early parts of their careers. Both Lee and Ramirez have the edge over Soriano the last few years.

A lead-off hitter does not need to be fast. It's a myth. Getting on base is everything, as long as your not so slow as to clog up the bases. Someone like Mark Grace would have been a great lead-off hitter. The Cubs would have been so much better if they had Sandberg in the 3 spot all those years instead. Since the Cubs couldn't get Brian Roberts, Fukodome seems like the only option. If they can get a real lead-off hitter, then move him to #2. Just get Theriot and Soriano out of those top spots against righties, or we're going to see a lot of 3 runs or less scored games all year.

Right on yosh! But first I am the anti-Mariotti, but that's besides the point. A guy that swings for the fences at every at-bat and hasn't shown a capability of working a pitcher is the lest likely candidate for the lead off spot. And I am tired of hearing about Soriano's comfort zone. He's a ball player! He should be comfortable with wood between his hands and homeplate at his feet.
Lou better take a valium and buckle up for a ride this summer. It's Chicago, you're farts will be scrutinized and well they should be. He should only worry when the media stops questioning him, 'cause that would mean he's fired or the Cubs are mathematically out of contention.

I think Lou needs to start Reed Johnson and lead him off. My projected line up would be 1. Johnson,Fukudome,Lee,Ramirez,Soriano,Soto,Theriot,Derosa I think that would be the best line up.

I cannot understand how Lou takes such a beating from the writers for DOING HIS JOB. The manager is "allowed" to change the lineup every day if he chooses WITHOUT consulting the writers first!
I read other towns papers and no where are the managers under such pressure from the "EXPERTS" known as the second guessers, oops excuse me, the writers.

Reed Johnson's been sort of hot, but he's not a starting center fielder, either at bat or in the field, when you have Pie competing with him. Johnson is solid, but Pie has the potential to be great in every aspect and is already great in several, such as defense and baserunning. He annihilated at the end of spring training, reflecting some progress in his approach and his swing, which seemed quicker and more compact. He's stuttered a bit the last few games, but is probably suffering from nerves in his first real season as a major league starter. Sometime in the next week or so, I'll bet you end up saying "wow, look at Pie" and he'll start taking off from there. The only questions is if Lou will be a big enough IDIOT to play Johnson instead, thereby breaking any rhythm Pie has going and affecting his ability to settle in.

I understand the urge to use Johnson at the top of the order, but the Cubs would be best at this point with DeRosa first and Fukudome second. DeRosa had the highest OBP of any Cub last year other than Lee (and Ward, I think), and will therefore help generate offense far more than Soriano, who had an OBP forty points lower at .337. I say DeRosa first rather than Fukudome because DeRosa is a big double play risk, so he can't bat second. Derosa, Fukudome, Lee, Rammy, Soriano, Soto, Pie, Theriot--that's the ticket, until Roberts, in which case I want DeRosa sliding over to shortstop, where he came up through the minors, and displacing Theriot. Then it's Roberts, Fukudome, Lee, Rammy, Soriano, Soto, DeRosa, Pie. High OBP at the top is the thing--if you look at the highest scoring offenses in baseball, they're the ones that have the highest team OBP. This of course means that the Cubs are much better off with Matt Murton in left field than Soriano, but there's no hope, with the cro-magnon Piniella in place and Hendry's $136 million blunder, that that will ever happen.

Dave is right up above; "98navi" is wrong. 126 lineups, regardless of what other teams are doing, is too many. That means, at maximum, you have your best lineup in only 37 games, or less than a quarter of the season. That's unacceptable. The problem is that Piniella, like Baker before him, just can't see what those of us who know the current Cubs and watch them attentively can easily see, which is that certain players are simply better than those they're competing with, and should therefore get the bulk of the playing time, regardless of slumps. Pie instead of Johnson, for example, or, last year, when Murton should have been playing regularly and Jacques Jones was probably are best option in center right from the start.

If you make the whole season an experiment, you have nothing figured out by the time it's over, and then you get swept in the playoffs. This also means that you don't mess with the lefty-righty batting garbage, except for in extreme cases. There's not a chance that anyone would be better in Fukudome's place, for example, even on days when we face lefties. DeRosa is always a better option than Fontenot, Pie always a better option than Johnson, and so on. You recognize talent, skill and performance and you go with it; there's very little mystery to it for any astute fan.

We're in real bad shape. Piniella just said in yesterday's interview that he doesn't think it matters where anyone bats in the order. As long as everybody's "hot" and "swinging the bats," we'll be fine. The problem is that this rarely ever happens for the whole team, so you need to maximize your best players by strategic placement to ensure that you have a greater chance of overall success, especially during the lulls. OBP at the top ensures a certain consistency of run production. It's alarming in the extreme that Piniella doesn't know that. Even the press corp was drilling him on moving Fukudome. He just laughs it off and continues to sabotage the team. Hendry has the hiring of Piniella and the signing of Soriano to answer for, and if we don't get deep into the playoffs this year, all three of them deserve to be let go.

T.J. - You are a bit long-winded, but you are correct about Pie. I find it amazing how Cub fans complain about playing the "young guys" but want to throw away a guy like Pie if he doesn't hit .400 and drive in a dozen runs in the first series of the year. Soriano, Lee, Rami and Fuku are paid the big bucks to provide the offense for this team. If they don't hit the Cubs won't win. Pie in the eight hole is not going to win games with his bat. Cub fans always fall in love with hustle guys like Reed Johnson, but he was released by Toronto for a reason. Pie has a bigger upside and his defense will win more games than Johnson's bat. Pie is a young player that needs time to develop. This team has enough offense to allow him to get acclimated to the big leagues and if Lou shows a little patience, he will end up with a pretty good ball player.

Lou gets a pass in this town for getting us to the playoffs. We did the same thing with Dusty. Even though he should have been criticized for some things he did in 03, we were so enamored with getting to the LCS that we didn't question him. Same with Lou. Because he won the weakest division in baseball, we give him a pass. I will give you that he is bold, he will sit people that need to be sat, but that is selective. He will bench some guys but not others. Soriano is not a leadoff hitter, he shouldn't be in that spot. And the only spot that is more ridiculous for him to hit in is the 2 hole which is where Lou put him. Explain that one all you Lou apologists. We need to have high standards, 100 years is a long time and no one should be getting a pass.

Send Theriot to the minors trade for Roberts midseason, and move Derosa to Shortstop.

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on April 3, 2008 2:15 PM.

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