The Other Fifteen

Eighty-five percent of the f---in' world is working. The other fifteen come out here.

Eric Patterson on defense

The Cubs have spent much of the offseason chasing Brian Roberts because he's a speedy, left-handed second baseman. Well, former top Cubs prospect Eric Patterson is a speedy, left-handed second baseman who has never really been given a shot with the club. What about him?

Everything points to his defense being the reason Eric Patterson hasn't been given a shot with the big-league club. Until now, I've pretty much had to smile and nod whenever the topic of Patterson's defense comes up - minor league defensive metrics have been, until recently, essentially nonexistent, and I'd never seen him play before.

We now have Simple Fielding Runs for minor leaguers, which is probably the best that we're going to get for a long time when it comes to defensive metrics for minor leaguers. What we lack is multiple years of data and an idea of how defense in the minors translates to defense in the majors, so while this is definitely a boon to defensive evaluation there's still work that could be done in this area.

Well, SFR has Patterson as 5.3 runs below average defensively at second base; making the (pretty risky) presumption that fielding in the minors translates pretty-much as is from the high minors, Patterson's defense would be about a half-win below the average. Not good, but hardly unacceptable.

But, again - one year of data, not regressed to the mean, with no idea how it really translates to the majors. So hardly a ringing endorsement.

Well, on Saturday and Sunday he appeared at second base for the Cubs, and I've used my TiVo and watched every play at least a half-dozen times. So now: a scouting report!

(Disclaimer: I am not a scout. I make no claims that I'd be any good as a scout. And I'm scouting him based on four opportunities or so, one of which was a pop fly. So... yeah.)

First off, animated GIF time!


First off - that's a hell of a lot of range to get to that ball. Keep in mind you're watching this in slow motion - this whole sequence took four seconds from start to finish.

The camera's not exactly steady - it pans and zooms during the sequence. But here's a very rough stitch-together of the first seven frames of that animation:


He's definately covering a lot of ground here - the camera doesn't cut to him until the ball is already in motion, so he's already in stride when we pick him up. So I have nothing but nice things to say about his range.

Now, at the precise moment he gets to the ball, his momentum is carrying him well away from first, so now he hwas to pivot and get into position to throw. It's here where you can start to understand his reputation as a mediocre defender at second base; it takes a little while for him to get into position to make the throw, and his footwork seems a bit awkward.

This is what causes him to rush the throw; you can't really see it in this play but everything else of his says that for a second baseman he's got a fine throwing arm; it's probably not a shortstop or third baseman's arm, though. His release seems relatively quick and sharp. In this case his delivery is well off-line, but I think that's a product of rushing to make the play rather than a chronic problem.

I think he's a less sure-footed and sure-handed defender than, say, Mike Fontenot; but he's far less likely to be doing the Derek Jeter Pasta Dive that Fontenot has showcased on more than one occasion. Certainly all of the physical gifts are there; you'd like to see him put it together a little better, but he's got athleticism that you can't teach.

This is his age 25 season, and so he can't be too far from being labeled a "bust" and getting the "failed prospect label." I can understand the Cubs being a bit hesitant to try him at second, but I think he'd beat the paint of Mike Fontenot out there as a fill-in for when DeRosa is supersubbing. That's probably wish-casting - all the projection systems out there actually seem to be rather more optimistic about Mike Fontenot than I am, actually. And 2007 was something of a down year for Patterson; his projections seem to reflect that.

E-Patt has been one of my touts for a while now, and so I'm probably a little too close to this analytically. I'm happy the Cubs are at least looking at him in camp this year, although the rumors are that it's as a showcase to Orioles scouts, and sadly I'd buy that.

UPDATEI give up. Any team willing to try out Mike Fontenot at shortstop should be willing to live with E-Pat at second.

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2 Responses to “Eric Patterson on defense”

  1. # Anonymous DeRoMyHero

    One thing concerns me about EPat:

    Speed, quickness, and throwing arm are physical gifts -- they can't be taught. You are born with them or you sit in front of a computer all day. He seems to have these gifts.

    However, footwork is something that can be taught and improved through hard work. I just wonder if EPat has worked hard enough on this aspect of his game in college and the minors. Granted, this isn't the fun part of playing baseball, but it's necessary. Many talented guys wash out in A-ball because they don't want to work hard on their weaknesses -- they just want to do what is fun and what they already do well.

    Will he get the message and spend as much time with Alan Trammell as he does with Gerald Perry?  

  2. # Anonymous Maddog

    I'm not sure it's as simply as wanting to work hard to improve something like footwork. It can be improved, but some people just aren't graceful and Eric Patterson is probably one of those players. His range still makes up for a lot of miscues though. I'd say someone who has obviously worked hard on their hitting is a hard worker and if improving defense means you get to the big leagues I'm sure he'd work his ass off. I have no doubt he's done that.

    He just might be a little more clumsy than you'd like out of a middle infielder.  

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