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The DeRosa DeBacle
by Keith Glab,
November 15, 2006

If I were Mark DeRosa, I'd celebrate, too 

It's business as usual for Jim Hendry and the Chicago Cubs.  Career utility infielder Mark DeRosa signed with the Cubs for 3 years and $13 million.  This stays true to the new Cubs tradition of signing old players coming off career years to lucrative three-year deals before a market value for such players is established.  By doing so, the Cubs have driven up the dollar value for every available middle infielder, starting or otherwise, just as they did with relief pitchers last year through early 3-year offers to Ryan Dempster, Scott Eyre, and Bob Howry.

But as much as those three relievers had career years in 2005, that's nothing compared to what Mark DeRosa accomplished in 2006.  The 31-year old DeRosa, who had never made more than $725,000 in a season until he signed this blasted contract, set career highs in every counting stat besides triples, which he tied.  He brought career percentages of .263/.319/.380 into 2006, then went .296/.357/.456 last season.

Is this a fluke, or an indication of improvement?  Well, DeRosa's road numbers were at least as good as his stats in Arlington, so we can't claim his success was due to the friendly confines of Texas' ballpark.  Perhaps all he needed was a chance to play every day.  We've seen recently with guys like Raul Ibanez, John Vander Wal, and Scott Hatteberg that improvement after the age of 30 is certainly possible with increased playing time (although Vander Wal's improvement is more likely due to drinking from the Fountain of Coors).  So perhaps Mark DeRosa is headed towards a Renaissance.

Maybe.  But why sign him to a three year deal when it's such a gamble?  While his overall numbers improved, his strikeout rate, walk rate, and home run rate all looked very similar to what he displayed throughout the early portion of his career.  His areas of improvement last season were in the categories of singles and doubles.  I'm not going to discount this improvement entirely, but these are two statistics in which luck plays a heavy role.  Many bloop hits can become singles or doubles if they happen to be hit in the right place at the right time, and without seeing a whole bunch of Rangers games last year, I'm betting that this happened to a moderate extent.

JC Bradbury's PrOPS predicted DeRosa's percentages to be .287/.347/.432, an overall .033 OPS points less than his actual OPS.  That kind of deviation isn't a huge red flag, but it certainly doesn't inspire blind faith that he has turned a corner in his career, either.

Then again, to Jim Hendry, it probably does.  Catcher Henry Blanco overshot his PrOPS by .041 points in his career year last season, and just got rewarded with a 2-year, $5.25 million deal to be their backup backstop.  Yet another market driven through the roof by Hendry and company.

But what really hurts is that the Cubs had career .289 hitter Todd Walker signed for $2.5 million last year and traded him for practically nothing, and that they had young Ryan Theriot hit .328 last year for the league minimum, but want him to continue in a backup role. 

It is becoming more and more difficult to continue to root for the Chicago Cubs. 

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at

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