For the Chicago Cubs, first base is a position that is locked up, at least through this year, with Derrek Lee. He has been a one of the best players for the team, since the Cubs acquired him in a trade before the 2004 season. His smooth swing and cool demeanor has made him one of the more popular players for the Cubs in recent years. While his bat and gold glove defense is a key part of the Cubs team, his leadership capability is also a welcomed addition to any major league ballclub.
In 2009, Lee put up an amazing year, leading the everyday players in home runs, runs batted in, on base percentage and slugging percentage. He also came in second with batting average to Aramis Ramirez, who missed half the year with his dislocated shoulder. Last year, he was far and away our best player. No one came close to competing with him for the team MVP. While the team ultimately fell to the Cardinals in the divisional race, that was no fault of Lee who also led the team in fielding percentage, at least all of the everyday starters. Lee’s 35 home runs last year was his second highest home run total of his career, and his 111 RBI set a new record for his career.
While Lee put up an amazing season last year, you would not have figured this would have been the case when the season started. In April of last season, Lee put up a horrible month. He hit only .189 with only one home run, and 10 RBI. With Lee struggling at the plate, many fans were calling for his head, and asking Cubs Manager Lou Piniella to bench him in favor of Micah Hoffpauir, who had shown the fans glimpses of just what he could do. As you would expect, Piniella ignored the cries of the high percentage of the fan base, and stuck with slugger throughout the season. As you know, this was the wise decision on his part.
What fans need to remember about Lee is he starts slow every year. April is historically his worst month, at least from what we have seen of his time in Chicago. The 2009 season reminded me a lot of 2008 and 2004 when Lee first got here. Fans have always been hard on Lee in the month of April, and have thought of him as being done when he puts up his subpar statistics early in the year. However, year in and year out, he has proven his critics wrong as he continues to put up great numbers when the year is over. I have no reason to believe that he would not continue to deliver for us again for the 2010 season.
So, what do I predict for Lee to do for the Cubs this coming season? I believe that Lee will hit for close to a .300 average, while hitting close to 30 home runs and around 100 RBI. He will do all this, while having another slow month of April. You guys should be use to what a typical season from Lee looks like by now. I would hope that Lee is not the victim of fans booing him again, when and if he gets off to another slow start. Lee is the real deal Cubs fans; he has proven that he can lead the offense year in and year out. While he may be nearing end of his prime, he still has more than enough life in him to help the Cubs make a run at the post season.