Baseball Notebook

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Micah Hoffpauir: Still Waiting For Break

Micah Hoffpauir watching his home run last night in Cubs 7-2 victory over the Reds.

Micah Hoffpauir watching his home run last night in Cubs 7-2 victory over the Reds.

Micah Hoffpauir couldn’t have been too happy when the Cubs signed Milton Bradley to a three year contract last offseason since it meant he would be a bench player again in 2009.

Hoffpauir has only sixteen at bats after the first twelve games even with Milton Bradley having injury issues this season. Hoffpauir does have defensive shortcomings in the outfield but the Cubs need his bat in the lineup everyday to give the team an even more potent offense.

Backup For Bradley And Lee

There are a lot of teams that would be playing Hoffpauir everyday but the Cubs have so much depth in the outfield that Hoffpauir won’t see much playing time this season. He is the backup for Bradley and for first baseman Derrek Lee.

Hoffpauir was already 22 before he started his first minor league season in 2002 after finishing college at Lamar University in Beaumont. He played two years at the Class A level in 2002 and 2003 then alternated between  AA and AAA baseball for the next three seasons from 2004-2006.

Breakthrough Season In 2008

He finally had a breakthrough minor league season in 2008 with the Iowa Cubs hitting 25 homers and driving in 100 runs and hitting .362. In addition he slugged an incredible .752 in 2008 which was 200 points higher than his .552 percentage in 2007.

He is now 29 and playing his first full major league season so he needs to be playing everyday. Hoffpauir is hitting .375 and is slugging .688 yet he will continue to have trouble finding playing time. The Cubs also have Reed Johnson and Joey Gathright trying to get more at bats this season in the Cubs outfield.

Milton Bradley disputing a third strike call with umpire Larry Vanover. Bradley was meted a two game suspension for contact with the umpirewhich he is appealing.

Milton Bradley disputing a third strike call with umpire Larry Vanover last Thursday in a game with the Cardinals. Bradley was meted a two game suspension for contact with Vanover and is appealing the suspension.

With Milton Bradley being so unpredictable both injury wise and behavior wise Hoffpauir may get more at bats than expected but still not anywhere close to the at bats of an everyday player.

My question is why the Cubs would spend $30 million on Bradley knowing his injury history and his proclivity to misbehave on and off the field. They could have saved that $30 million and let Hoffpauir play for the $407,500 he is making in 2009.

Sits On The Bench While Bradley Slumps

While Hoffpauir sits on the bench for the most part Bradley has one hit in nineteen at bats and is hitting .053. Bradley has already missed four games this season and will miss two more when his two day suspension starts after his appeal.

Bradley is in his tenth major league season and has never had more than 22 homers and 77 in a season. It is early in the season but Bradley is not getting off to a good start with his .053 average and his injuries and suspension only twelve games into the season.

Played 100 Games Three Times In Ten Year Career

He has played in more than 100 games only three times in his career and in one of those years it was only one game over 100. It will be interesting to see how patient Lou Piniella is with Bradley if his slump continues much longer. Piniella may have to have a discussion eventually about Bradley with general manager Jim Hendry if he can’t shake this slump because it isn’t fair to Hoffpauir to sit on the bench while Bradley is hurting the team. They may have to decide which is more important…money or the Cubs having the best players on the field.

Bradley will have to play in 75 games this season for his 2011 option to be vested. That option gives the Cubs a choice of paying him $12 million or paying him a $2 million buyout in 2011.

Fourth On Team In RBI’s In Only 16 At Bats

Meanwhile Hoffpauir will spend most of the season on the bench picking up some pinch hit at bats and starting when Bradley or Lee are out of the lineup. He can only hope he can play well like he did last night when he hit his first homer of the season. He is fourth on the team in runs batten in with five and has more than regulars Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot who both have four but in 44 and 39 at bats respectively while Hoffpauir has batted 16 times. Hoffpauir is second in hitting behind Theriot who is hitting .409 while Hoffpauir is hitting .375.  His .688 slugging percentage is second on the team with Kosuke Fukudome leading with a .714 mark. He is also second in OPS with Fukudome having a 1.205 percentage and Hoffpauir a 1.076 percentage.

I can’t help but wonder how many more Micah Hoffpauir’s are out there waiting for the chance to play everyday but are victims of circumstances that prevent them from playing everyday. All they can do is hope for the trade that gives them a chance to play everyday or hit so well that the manager has no choice but to play them.

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