View From The Bleachers

January 15, 2008

Who Needs Brian Roberts Anyway? We’ve Already Got Him!

Filed under: General — Joe Aiello @ 7:47 pm

Let me preface this by saying that I would not be opposed to Brian Roberts coming aboard, but to think that without him, the Cubs can’t compete for the World Series is absurd. We don’t need Roberts. After all, we’ve already got him…sort of. I know you’re thinking that I’m off my rocker, but I believe our answer to Brian Roberts is not only in our system already, but also Major League ready. Who is this mystery player you ask? None other than Eric Patterson. Stop laughing and listen for a second.

Let’s break down the main tools Roberts brings to the table and compare them with what Patterson brings.

1. Speed
There is no question that Roberts has tremendous speed and, as a veteran, has earned the green light on the base paths. Last year, he stole 50 bases with a success rate of 88%. That is above the 75% rate recommended by sabermetricians for there to be any sort of benefit to the team as a whole. Those 50 SB’s were a career high for Roberts, so it’s not necessarily the norm. Looking at his career 162 game average of 37, a 40 SB year is about what you can expect. A quick look at Eric Patterson in the minor leagues over the past three years and you’ll find that he’s also put up good SB numbers. 24, 46, & 43 are his last three years totals. That’s an average of 38 a season, just a shade below Roberts totals. Remember, Roberts has more experience as well, so his learning has taken place.

2. Leadoff Hitting Ability
There is no arguing the fact that moving Alfonso Soriano out of the leadoff spot, which Roberts would do, would be great for the team. Roberts has a great ability to make pitchers work hard to get him out and has the ability to take a walk. In 2007, he posted an on base percentage of .376 in the leadoff spot and managed a very impressive 4.2 pitches seen per plate appearance. Those are the kind of numbers that have me salivating. However, let’s look at Patterson. Hitting primarily out of the leadoff spot for Iowa (AAA), Patterson posted an on base percentage of .362 and has a career Minor League on base percentage of .366.

3. Lefthanded Bat
Brian Roberts is a switch hitter and would provide another lefty bat for the lineup dominated by right handers. Eric Patterson is a lefty and would also provide the balance.

4. Versatility
Roberts can play both middle infield spots. Patterson plays second base as well as the OF, which he worked on last season.

5. PECOTA Projections
Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus has produced a stat projection system called PECOTA. Like any projection system, it has it’s flaws. After all, can we really predict the future? Of course not, but can we use prior performance to make fairly good educated guesses using lines of regression and other math? Of course. PECOTA does just that. It provides best case and worst case scenarios for a player, and I tend to gravitate toward the mean of those. Looking at Silver’s PECOTA projection for Patterson last year, since it’s the only one up right now, we see that Eric Patterson was ML ready last year and was projected for a fairly successful season. Let’s use those projections and call them his 2008 projections for the sake of argument. Here is how he compares with Brian Roberts actual 2007 numbers.

Name Avg OBP % Slug % HR 2b SB
Roberts (Actual) .290 .377 .432 12 42 50
Patterson (Projected) .286 .356 .476 14 31 32

Patterson projects for a little more pop in the bat, but less plate discipline. Both appear to be very similar to each other.

Conclusion
Bringing in Roberts is a great idea IF the Cubs do not have to mortgage the farm to get him. To get him by giving up both Sean Marshall and Sean Gallagher as well as perhaps Ronny Cedeno is too much. I’d rather take my chances with Patterson and save the prospects.

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids and helps people protect their assets as an independent insurance agent. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail

  • Jose

    I like the analysis. You make a solid case. I also would like Roberts on the Cubs but would not want to trade away our future for him. I vote for giving Patterson a shot. However, there are two points to consider: (1) Roberts is a proved talent, Patterson is not. He is full of potential much like his brother (and we know how that worked out). (2) I think that Roberts can be had for a lot less, if we are patient. The Orioles will be a terrible team this season. At some point they will have to trade him.

  • http://cubsfx.blogspot.com Harry

    Look at some more projections – for 2008 – here http://cubsfx.blogspot.com/2008/01/roberts-deal-still-simmering.html

    It paints a slightly different picture.

  • Pete

    I gotta agree that I like the idea of moving Patterson up instead of Roberts. Roberts came on relatively late in his career and relatively recently. He is also linked to steroids.

    I’d rather give a shot to an A prospect than trade two pitchers and Cedeno for a 30 year old. The only problem with Patterson is that instead of being linked to steroids, he’s linked to his brother.

    What is the plan with DeRosa for this season? Utility guy batting near the bottom of the line up?

    And how firmly is Theriot penciled in at SS at this point?

    Just wondering…

  • Brian

    I would give Marshall and Cedeno for Roberts, but that is it. If it would take more, I would not do it. I don’t think that losing Marshall would really hurt that much, because we have pretty much the same type of pitcher, only a little better, in Rich Hill. I can live with having only one starter who is a lefty and throws big breaking stuff. In regard to Cedeno, I like him and think he still has a lot of potential (ducks to avoid objects being thrown), but I would part with him and Marshall to get Roberts…..but nothing more.

  • Boomer

    PECOTA also had Felix Pie at 288/342/480 for ’07.

    Roberts has dropped about 25 OBP pts from his minor league averages to his ML averages and wasn’t over 345 until he had over 1400 at bats. Expect Patterson to be no better than the 330’s for the entire year if he’s playing.

    Patterson is terrible at 2B, hence the move to the OF.

    Patterson was 77% successful in SB’s last year at Iowa. I would have to assume that to get worse (even though Pie got significantly better somehow).

    Finally, Patterson is in the dog house with the club it seems for showing up late or whatever it was at the end of the year that got him sent right back down to the minors.

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com/meetmatt.php Matt Jacobs

    That last comment summed up my thoughts Boomer. I think Patterson hasn’t fallen too far from the Corey tree. I’m not sure their sold on him being much of a contributor without it being a headache.

    As long as we can send Cedeno, and only one of the pitchers, I’d say do it. Not both.

  • Jerious Norwood

    One pretty major problem. Patterson is going to be an outfielder when he hits the majors. And counting on a rookie to put you over the top in a playoff race is a ‘bootable’ offense (as is disparaging the boot). I like the analysis apart from that.

  • Jacki Rossi

    The analysis is good. However, what stands out in my mind is actual v/s projected. Well that and the Patterson name of course.

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