It was an interesting offseason for the Chicago Cubs, losing both Moises Alou and Sammy Sosa. Everyone, including myself, saw them just missing the playoffs because of their mediocre hitting. That has been the majority of the case so far, but there's been one GLOWING exception, Derrek Lee.
In his second year with the Cubs after leaving the Marlins in 2003, Lee has been absolutely outstanding.
2005: .409/.486/.763 8 HR, 30 RBIs 4 steals 24.6 VORP .395 EQa .354 ISOP
The 8 HR's ties him for first in the NL. The 30 RBI make him first in the NL. His .409 Avg is tops in all of baseball, as is his VORP and EQa. Only Wily Mo Pena has a higher Slugging Percentage than Lee, but Lee has twice as many ABs.
To put this in perspective, Lee's position of highest VORP and EQa in the league puts him on par with Barry Bonds last year.
Yet this is very unusual for Lee.
2004: .278/.355/.504 43.3 VORP 32 HR, 98 RBI, 12 steals, .284 EQa .226 ISOP
Obviously, I'm not expecting Lee to bat 400 all year, but his numbers are leaps and bounds where they normally are for him. His 43.3 VORP is only good enough for 9th among NL first basemen, a farcry from tops in the league. So I decided to look deeper for an explanation.
2004 April: .233/.333/.411 2 HR, 11 RBI 2 steals .178 ISOP.
Interestingly, aside from September (in which Lee bats 226), this is statistically Lee's worst month. In fact, Lee actually had more HR's, RBIs, and runs scored in September. As it stands, April was arguably Lee's worst month of the year. But does the trend continue?
2003 April: .272/.387/.456 4 HR, 16 RBI, 10 steals, .184 ISOP
At this point, Lee is back with the Marlins (about to go on a World Series run). Aside from September (in which Lee hits a ridiculous 341), this is arguably Lee's second best month of the year, especially factoring in the steals. It's hard to say if this is due to the lineup, his position in it, or just the different pitching, so I took a look back to 2002.
2002 April: .221/.330/.463 5 HR, 17 RBI 2 steals, .242 ISOP
The homeruns and rbis are misleading here, especially after looking at his average and obp (a russ branyan esque 330). Besides May, this is Lee's worst month of the year. An interesting (and totally unsupportable) trend has developed of Lee being a statistical outlier in odd numbered years in April.
Marlins 2002/2003 AVGs: .270/.378/.501 29 HRs 89 RBIs 20 Steals .3045 EQa 50.5 VORP .231 ISOP
Cubs 2004: .278/.355/.504 43.3 VORP 32 HR, 98 RBI, 12 steals, .284 EQa .226 ISOP
His numbers are better across the board sabremetrically with the Marlins, but the majority of his stats are better with the Cubs (save OBP).
Who's to say how Lee will finish this year, or why he's started so hot? I'm inclined to think it's his different position in the lineup (as well as his different role on the team), but even that is just hypothesis. Regardless, Lee is a top first basemen in baseball, and he's proving it so far this year, with no end in sight.
Makes you wonder how the Marlins couldn't afford to keep him after they won the series, but they could afford Delgado...