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 as well as host of VFTB Radio. 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. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail