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Monday, August 27, 2007

Premature Obituary

Much has been made of D-Lee's troubling season-long power outage. Even the precocious Steve Stone, baseball analyst extraordinaire, has been claiming the Derrek Lee is no longer an elite first baseman. And while it may be true that Lee has had a couple of long slumps in 2007 - most notably an 8-for-42 with no homers slide from late June to mid-July - and only hit half a dozen long balls prior to the All-Star break, nobody seems to have noticed that pre-wrist injury Derrek Lee has been alive and well in recent weeks. His 420-ft. inside-the-parker yesterday afternoon gives him 9 HR and 23 RBI since July 15. There have been better NL one-baggers during that stretch. Namely, Prince Fielder, Prince Albert, and Ryan Howard. Pretty elite company. For the season, despite his slump, he's 11th in the NL in batting average, 9th in on-base percentage, and 19th in OPS. Meanwhile, on a daily basis, regardless of how he is hitting, he saves runs with his immense athletic frame protecting the first base line and saving the hides of an otherwise thoroughly mediocre infield defense in Chicago. Sure, this season D-Lee won't be receiving many MVP votes, which is a surprise, but his decline has been thoroughly exaggerated, much as fellow golden-gloved RBI-machine, Mark Texeira's, was when he hit only nine homers in the first half last year. He's hit 47 since he started hearing the term "overrated," and if he continues the tear he's been on since getting traded to Atlanta, he'll get his share of MVP consideration in 2007. If elite means Fielder, Pujols, and Howard (a.k.a the last three NL MVPs, assuming Fielder holds on this season), than maybe Lee's not elite, but I wouldn't bet against him being elite by the end of '08.

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