A couple of months ago, my dad and I road tripped down to Memphis to visit my son, drink on Beale St, laugh at how crappy Graceland actually is, etc. Along I-55, in Sikeston, MO, sits Lambert's Cafe, the World's HQ of gluttony and the originator of that most quaint of Midwestern traditions, throwed rolls. See, to summarize, in addition to the massive portions of meat loaf or roasted hog they serve in this place, Lambert's also employs armies of servers who go around to tables literally carrying pails of cheap countryfied side dishes like three bean salad and fried okra, offering to ladle some onto your plate. More famously and impressively, some of the members of the food army also wheel around trays of light, fluffy rolls, and if you raise your hand, they will throw one to you with stunning accuracy.
Now, on this day, like almost every day because nearly every shirt I own has some sort of Cubs logo on it, I was sitting there in full regalia, when one of the roll throwers sidled up to me and asked if I was a Cub fan. Here we go, said my inner monologue, which insists on speaking in italics. Another brain surgeon from Cletus Nation. Yep, I said out loud, not that I had anything to brag about this year. That's okay, said Mister Throwed Rolls, because his cousin plays for them.
I know where this is going, because of course, Blake DeWitt hails from Sikeston, MO, and most likely, if Bubba here is in fact telling the truth, chances are he's akin to our enigmatic "pinch hitter extradornaire". And yes, my inner monologue is VERY sarcastic. So I innocently ask Bubba (not his real name, but close enough) who is cousin is.
Bubba, who really did remind me of Tow Mater from "Cars", stuck out his proud chest underneath the bib overalls and confirmed it was DeWitt, that he was the best hitter who ever came from those parts, and he sure wished he played for the Cardinals, because then he himself wouldn't be torn between rooting for his favorite team and rooting for Sikeston's favorite son. I told Tow Mater that I understood his dilemma, and I replied that he might get his wish sooner than later.
Why would I say that, Bubba Mater asked? Don't they think he's good up there? How observant of you to notice, Mr. Throwed Rolls. After all, most 26 year olds with 3-plus years of major league experience are just hitting their stride as major leaguers (think Evan Longoria or Adam Jones). And here your guy is, already having cycled through his emergent stage, to starting for the Dodgers, being traded to the Cubs and inserted into the lineup, and what? He didn't field particularly well at either second or third, and didn't hit well enough to justify leaving him in the everyday lineup. Last year, Mike Quade preferred the decreasing returns of Darwin Barney, and misused DeWitt as a supersub utlility man and first pinch hitting option off the bench, neither role suiting him particularly well. He is not particularly useful as a platoon piece against right handed pitching. Against right handed starters in 2011, he hit .265/.304/.413. Against left handed starters, he hit .265/.306/.412. Which means, essentially, that against presumably decent pitching, DeWitt is extremely ordinary and does not favor either side.
Furthermore, my inner monologue continued for the briefest of moments, against right handed pitching as a whole, he hit .242/.275/.379 in 2011, which means what? Considering his line versus right handed starters, he was miserable against right handed relief pitching, which was most likely in a pinch hitting role. So was he a miserable pinch hitter? He was .219 as a pinch hitter, used all but once against righties, so yes, he performed miserably in 2011. But it turns out that he hit LEFT handed pitching, as a whole, to the tune of .406/.472/.625?? That means, at least in 2011, that Blake DeWitt DESTROYED left handed relief pitching, albeit on a very small sample. Nevertheless, do you think Jim Hendry or Mike Quade noticed this?
In conclusion, as my moment to myself was winding down, and I better reply to Cletus the Bread Thrower here lest he feels I have impuned his family honor and commences to murder me with a pail of butter, yes, the Cubs think Blake DeWitt sucks, and only hang on to him because a) they have nobody better, b) he must be a decent guy to have around, and c) he's young and cheap. But I myself am not sure that this is true, and I am about to reply to Roll Boy. "Nah, I don't think he's bad. I don't think the Cubs know how to use him, or where to play him, and if they do trade him to the Cardinals, and if they can figure out where to play him and how to get him to be more effective, it won't be the first time we got the short end of the stick on a young guy."
This sat quite well with Bubba and for the rest of our lunch, we enjoyed the most courteous service, along with piping hot rolls and all the sorghum molasses we could soak up. It really is no mystery why I am fat, why a lot of us are fat, and why we had to wind our way through a massive line of people stretching from the dining room door halfway out the parking lot as we left.
But this ain't no restaurant review, this is the 2011 Player Recap, where I wonder what we should do about a guy entering the so-called Theo-esque physical prime of a major league career. DeWitt really is too young to be in the position he is in, but is that his fault or a function of the ineptitude of Cubs management? It will be very interesting to see what Theo and his Boyquarium does with him this year. His trade value would be entirely based on his lack of financial risk rather than his achievements on the major league level. He almost certainly does not possess the agility to play second base. He has never had the opportunity to prove himself at third base, fielding wise. I suspect he would be average, but not only does he not hit well enough to justify playing him in a position that is depended on for impact offense, but on this Cubs team, more than one smart guy has suggested that Starlin Castro is the third baseman of the future. He also played corner outfield positions this year, not that well, but with repetition would most certainly come improvement. But, once again, corner outfield positions are meant to be manned by key offensive contributors, and besides, this club currently has $54 million dollars remaining on the investment for the incumbent in left.
It does not seem like there is any room for Blake DeWitt on the Cubs. It seems wrong to simply give up on a first round draft pick, albeit not one of ours. If he wants to thrive in baseball, he has to hit more. I have devoted 1200 words to him, which might be 1100 too many, but then again, hot throwed rolls was also involved, and I suspect he'd be superb if he was forced to go back home and throw rolls for a living.