Honoring Derrek Lee

One of the upsides of downtime during the off-season is the freedom it allows for one to stumble upon tidbits and performances he missed throughout the season. Consider this one: Derrek Lee had a .412 wOBA last season. I’m ashamed to admit I missed out on it. Oh, I saw his name on the WAR leaderboards, skimmed the 35 home runs, and caught a dozen or so Cubs games throughout the season, but for whatever reason my mind’s Shamwow didn’t work on Lee’s .306/.393/.579 slash line.

That doesn’t compare to his magical 2005 season in which he posted a.446 wOBA and .335/.418/.662, but hey, that season was probably one of the best non-Pujols/Bonds/Rodriguez offensive seasons we’ve seen over the last decade. Back to his 2009, the only number that really stands out as a bit of a fluke is his increased HR/FB and even that isn’t too far out of his career norm. Lee’s ISO went through the roof and that twin-killing bug he caught during 2008 (27 GIDP) left his system abruptly. In fact, his 2007 and 2009 season totals add up to 27 GIDP, which tells you how odd last year really was.

Lee turns 35 during next season and sees his contract expire at season’s end. He’s still a capable first baseman and it’ll be interesting to see where he lands if the Cubs don’t work towards an extension. Maybe it’s time for me to make use of the “My Team” function on here.

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23 Responses to “Honoring Derrek Lee”

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  1. CircleChange11 says:

    I posted this in commentary on another subject, but IMO, why we all did not notice Lee’s season was because he started out not doing so well (compared to his past performance) when Aramis was injured. Once ARam returned, Lee’s performance took off.

    DLee (1st Half) – 280/354/511
    DLee (2nd Half) – 336/436/656

    By the time Lee’s performance was on a major upswing, the Cubs were a disaapointment, and all the attention on the Cubbies were [1] how Soriano went from the Penthouse to the Outhouse, and [2] the “failure” of Milton Bradley.

    Derrek Lee is just one of those players everyone likes, regardless of your favorite team.

    IIRC, Lee was also playing through an early season injury (pinched nerve in his neck, and some back issues). He tried to play through it and was struggling. So, it wasn’t all “Ramirez’s return” … ARam came back AND DLee got healthy.

    Attending some Cubs games with really good seats (my 8yo son love em … tragic), and watching DLee in pre-game and in-game, the guy is just athletic as heck, even at 6-5. It doesn’t appear that he’s lost much of his athleticism and I have only one concern with his next 3 years … and that is that neck and back injuries seem to be “re-ocurring” namely due to act of swinging a baseball bat and the torque it places on the spine.

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    • John says:

      While I mostly agree, Lee batted .189 in April, then .313/.339/.295 May/June/July, so I think it was more a horrendous start than a full bad half. The power didn’t seem to come until June, though.

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    • joser says:

      He definitely got off to a slow start, but what does Aramis Ramirez have to do with it? This isn’t the protection argument again, is it?

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I understand that here, at fangraphs, a study comparing the “protection value” of a batter with SLG of .450+ applies to EVERY situation in baseball regardless of whether we’re talking about a “protection” batter with a SLG of .460 or .550 or .600.

        Of course, it’s correlation instead of causation, or luck, or small sample size, or something else … but the one thing it CANNOT be is that not having Ramirez in the lineup affected how Lee was pitched or Lee’s approach at the plate. It has to be *anything* but that because a study examining a general sample has to be apllied to every situation.

        God forbid, someone look at something on a case-by-case basis, and consider all of the individual aspects of the situation.

        Derrek Lee got healthier and Ramirez returned to the lineup. I’ll leave it to the know-it-alls to determine what % of performance is attributed to each specific aspect.

        But, I suppose the fangraph’s opinion is that Ramirez’s absence had no measurable affect on Lee’s performance. *Shrugs* …or Clark’s on McGee and Her, or rickey’s and Canseco’s on Lansford, or Bonds’ on Kent’s performance, etc. You guys let me know when correlation become causation … or what % of influence one situation has on another.

        It’s just a coincidence, why don’t I just accept that as indisputable fact?

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I looked up Lee’s individual seasons stats: 1st Half v. 2nd Half …

        [1] Through 2003, he was a much better player in the 2nd half then he was the in 1st half, perhaps even giving the appearance of being a “slow starter”.
        [2] In 2004, he completely flipped to being better in the 1st half than in the 2nd half.

        2004 was his first year with the Cubs. This was his first year in Chicago where his 1st half numbers were not well above his 2nd half numbers.

        We can speculate why. In the end we end up with varying levels of probability or confidence in our conclusion based on the different weighting we place on various aspects/sources. But, neither of us will be able to say, for certain, why DLee had such a poor start in 09 after being a “1st half player” in Chicago over the last 4 seasons.

        His BABIP in the 1st half was way down, and in the 2nd half way up (I’m not one of those that chalks it up to “really bad luck” anbd “really good luck”)

        K-rate is about the same, walk rate is down in the 1st half. Makes me wonder if the lower walk rate, combined with the way down BABip, if in the 1st half he was “pressing” due to trying to over-compensate for Aramis’s absence (swinging at pitches he might usually lay off of, perhaps borderline strike/ball pitches on corners, harder pitches to make good contact on), if he was getting pitched differently, or if he was battling through an injury … or some combination of all 3 or something else.

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  2. dan woytek says:

    I had a bet at the beginning of the ’09 season with one Carson Cistulli that Derrek Lee wouldn’t slug .500. He still owes me a beer.

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  3. Ed Nelson says:

    Hate to say it but this would be the best time to move him. Despite the public uproar that would surely come afterward, Lee will probably never have more trade value, and the Cubs need to fill a bunch of holes. He would look pretty good in a Boston uniform…

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      I agree. He would look GREAT in the American League!

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      • Bryz says:

        There are MANY guys that would look good in the American League.

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      • AndyS says:

        What does that even mean? Why would someone look particularly great in the AL?

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      • Joe R says:

        Derrek Lee can field his position. The ONLY reason someone would look great in the AL as opposed to the NL is being able to hide him from the field via DHing him.

        Derrek Lee would be a good addition on almost any team in MLB.

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      • circlechange11 says:

        What is means is that I am a CARDINAL fan. I even stated that it was TRAGIC that my 8yo son loves the Cubs.

        Derrek Lee would look great in the AL, because the Cardinals wouldn’t have to face him 16-18 times per season.

        “Lighten Up, Francis”.

        I’d be glad to take DLee in StL and move Pujols back to 3B. Other than that option, send him to the AL … in a straight up trade for Aubrey Huff or something. *grin* Get him out of the NLC.

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      • circlechange11 says:

        I guess I better point this out before I spend the next half of a day defending comments that are not to be taken seriously …

        [1] I do not advocate Pujols moving to 3B. While it likely greatly enhances the team’s potential for WAR at 3B and 1B, it also (perhaps) increases Pujol’s chances of re-injury his elbow or causing more severe damage. In fantasy baseball or video games, I’d love to have Pujols at 3B, Lee at 1B.

        [2] I am not saying that Derrek Lee for Aubrey Huff is a “good trade”, so please don;t spend the next 2 hours bringing up stat & metrics illustrating how dumb of a trade that would be and how ignorant I am. That was THE point, I WANT the Cubs to (A) get rid of Lee, and (B) do it in a dumb way.

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  4. Judy says:

    I think it translates to: “I watch mostly AL games and I wouldn’t mind seeing him more.”

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  5. Nate says:

    Part of the reason Lee’s great season was overlooked was that he still was only the 4th best(!) 1B in his division according to wOBA (Pujols, Fielder, Votto were higher, although Votto missed time, and Lee’s defense is better than Votto and Fielder). 1B is such a deep position in MLB, but the NL Central was absurd at the position as 4 of the top 5 1B (according only to wOBA) were in the NLC. Only Kevin Youkilis was a non-NL Central 1B with a wOBA in the top five. (All were higher than Cabrera and Texiera who recieved AL mvp votes).

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    • Choo says:

      (Lee’s defense is better than Votto’s . . .)

      Maybe. Lee was better in 2009 but Votto holds the slight edge from 2008-09. Consider 2010 to be the tie-breaker.

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  6. John says:

    I wonder if they’ll consider letting Lee go and moving Aramis to first. I don’t think Aramis is that bad at 3B, but he’s not going to get better as he ages.

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  7. lincolndude says:

    His 2005 was magical indeed. But if we’re talking non-Pujols/Bonds/Rodriguez offense over the past decade, I’ll take the Giambino c. ’00-’02.

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  8. jirish says:

    Derrek Lee is actually an awesome human being. He carries himself well on the baseball field, does a ton of charity work, and always gives it his all. A lot of the Cubs players are very involved in the community, and even considering that, Lee stands out. I don’t care if he’s only the 4th best first baseman-that actually great for his age 35 season. There are plenty of reasons beyond baseball to heap praise on him. He’s earned it.

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  9. Moondigs says:

    Lee’s value is sky high right now, and Beantown would be a great fit.

    The Cubs could move Jake Fox to 1B, which is probably the only position he’s (close to) capable of playing, aside from the occasional backup at 3B.

    DLee does have a no-trade clause, but he would get a good return if he were to be moved.

    The Cubs would lose his leadership in a clubhouse without a face, and they’d lose his glove, which would be tough-

    Any ideas on who’d they get from Boston? Maybe a 2B/RF guy? Leadoff hitter? Bullpen help? Prospects?

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    • Joe R says:

      Doubt Boston would trade for him. Boston isn’t shy about loading up on corner-type players, but the only thing I can think of here is if there’s some 3 team deal that involves Derrek Lee and Mike Lowell.

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  10. Joe R says:

    Ted Lilly also got missed amid the Cubs failures in 2009.

    12-9, 3.10 ERA, 177 IP, and most importantly, a 4.19 K/BB
    His single season best before 2009? 3.16.

    3.65 FIP also a career best.

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  11. Circlechange11 says:

    I don’t think Lilly gets overlooked by those that follow the nlc. He’s a good lhp in a division that features some big lh bats.

    He likely gets overlooked because of the dissapointing cubs season … Dominated by the attention given to Soriano and Bradley.

    Lilly is good; he has been A solid performer for the lovable losers.

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