Corey hasn’t learned a damned thing

Posted on Jul 3, 2006 in Andy | 21 comments


Out, again?  Hey, you made it 178 feet farther than usual.

In today’s Chicago Mouthpiece Tribune, Missy Isaacson writes what I thought would be an interesting piece on the success that Corey Patterson has enjoyed in Baltimore, once freed of the tutelage of the Cubs’ clownish coaching staff.  I was looking forward to using it to help prove the point that Dusty and his staff of stooges don’t belong in a big league dugout.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid I’ll have to use the evidence we already have on hand, because Corey’s not helping the cause.

The piece starts with this cute little story.

Corey Patterson was more than halfway to second base on Jeff Conine’s looping single Saturday night when he downshifted a few gears to a slow trot.

Braves center fielder Andruw Jones should have been suspicious. Instead, as Patterson had hoped, Jones took his time getting the ball out of his glove. When he did, Patterson turned his decoy into a dead sprint to third.

Jones recovered in time to throw out Patterson, but the Orioles, who wound up beating the Braves 7-4, loved it. And they love Patterson, who has found a new lease with a new team as well as a much-needed chance to exhale.

Ah, that’s typical Corey.  Nothing says baserunning brilliance like trying an ill-conceived deke on the best defensive centerfielder in a generation.

But actually, I was interested to see what has turned Corey into a more productive hitter.  He always has shown flashes of great defense (remember his Superman imitation when he took the three run homer away in Cincinnati?) and occasional competence stealing bases.

Instead, what we got was useless antecdotal evidence from a couple of useless antecdoters (antecdoters?), LaTroy Hawkins:

“He’s just playing the game the way he knows how to play it,” Hawkins said. “He’s being Corey and not trying to be somebody he isn’t, what they wanted him to be in Chicago, especially what the fans wanted him to be. People took his quiet demeanor as a weakness, but it’s not, and here Corey can be Corey and go about his business.”

And Kevin Millar:

“You can boo for lack of effort, but booing your home player for lack of a result or just to boo doesn’t help that player,” he said. “You look at a guy like Corey Patterson, who has a change of scenery, and now he’s on pace to hit 20 home runs and steal 65 bases, and I’m sure they’d love to have him in Chicago right now.”

Nothing about Corey changing his approach at the plate, or shortening his swing, nothing useful.  Nothing that just screams, “He finally has gotten better coaching!”

I was disappointed.  I thought Melissa botched the story.

So I looked at Corey’s stats, and found something out.

He’s the same crappy outfielder the Cubs traded.

The one thing we knew about D. Corey Patterson is that he can get hot for a month and make his stats look more productive than they were.  It was the kind of play that “toolsy” players who rely on antecdotes like, “He’s just playing the game the way he knows how to play it, ” or “He’s on pace to hit 20 homers and steal 65 bases” thrive on.  For every catchable flyball that falls in shallow right center there’s a diving catch.  For every runner stranded on second with nobody out because the guy’s swinging from his ass there’s a three stolen base game.  (Actually it’s more like for every 17 runners stranded…, but you get the idea.)

Corey’s “best” year as a Cub was 2003.  The Cubs’ best year and the year he tore up his knee against the Cardinals and missed half the season.  We remembered it, until sometime in May of 2004, as the year he put it all together.

What hindsight and stats have shown us, is that all it was, was Corey having a great month, surrounded by a couple of lousy ones, then blowing out his knee before his average could bottom out.

In 2003, his big month was May.  He hit .333, posted a .345 on base average, slugged .565 and hit six homers and drove in 20 runs.  He was 23 and the Cubs had a future star on their hands.  Or so they thought.

In April he’d hit .277, but his on base average was only .310 and he struck out an astonishing 28 times with only five walks.

In June he hit .269 with a .319 on base average and struck out 26 times against only seven walks.

So, you figure that in May he must have made a crapload of contact, right?

He struck out 19 times, but walked only twice.  He made no change, it’s just that the balls he hit landed on the grass more.  Same approach, different results.  The kind of thing you can’t sustain.

From there, 2006 looks a lot like 2003, except that he likely won’t blow out a knee.  He might consider it, it might land him a contract extension if the O’s are fooled into thinking he’s improved.

Corey’s big month this year was, again, May.  He hit .292 with a .357 on base average and slugged .506. 

In April, he hit .286 but with only a .300 on base average, and struck out eight times (he only batted 49 times) and walked but once.

In June, he hit .280, with a .313 on base average and struck out 20 times with only five walks.

Nothing has changed.  He’s still a wild swinging centerfielder, the difference is that the Orioles have let him steal when he wants to.  He’s racking up impressive stolen base numbers (30 in 35 attempts), but for a guy with 41 runs scored, how impressive are 30 stolen bases?  What are they accomplishing? 

Juan Pierre was terrible his first two months with the Cubs (before rebounding in June to hit .283 with a .352 on base average — and with six walks to seven K’s), and he has 25 stolen bases, and 39 runs scored.  You know from watching the Cubs’ offense every day that those stolen bases don’t equate a run crossing the plate all that often.

I’m glad Corey’s happier in Baltimore.  I hope he’s having more fun playing.  But you’ll hear over the next three days how much better he is than he was as a Cub. 

If only it were actually true.