One Cub Quietly Having A Great Season

Funny story; I was checking just how many major leaguers this year have a higher slugging percentage than Orioles’ back-up shortstop Robert Andino’s OPS (.556) – there are 11 of the them by the way – and saw that one of them is Derrek Lee. The Cubs first-baseman is having a very good season, and it’s largely flown under the radar.  I took a look at is over at MLB Notebook. An excerpt’s below; click through for the full version.

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“The Cubbies first-baseman is slugging .593 as part of a .310/.394/.593 line and has 35 home runs. Lee hasn’t showed that kind of power since his career year back in 2005, when he ended up with 46 longballs and led the league in hits (199), doubles (50), SLG (.662), OPS (1.080), OPS+ (174), and won a batting title (.335).

I was completely dumbfounded by Lee’s great season this year, since the Cubs have underperformed (though they are up to second place in the NL Central with a 78-72 record) and a lot of blame has been spread around.  I haven’t heard anyone mention any of the positives.  Lee’s power diminished once he got into into his thirties, going from 46 HR to 8 (in only 50 games in ’06), 22, and 20.  This year he’s really getting the ball into the air; according to FanGraphs 46.7% of his balls in play are flyballs, compared to the 34-40% range he’s been in since at least 2002 (as far back as that data goes).  Combine that with 19.1% of his flyballs reaching the stands – his highest rate since 2005’s 23.7% and above his career average of 17% – and you’ve got yourself a big-time jump in home runs.  With his usual solid batting average, walk-rate, and average-ish defense (+2 runs according to Ultimate Zone Rating), Lee has been worth 5.2 Wins Above Replacement – 8th in the NL amongst position players. And I don’t think too many people outside of Chicago know about it.”