It’s Todd Time

By Keith Glab
Saturday, July 24 2004

    After filling in more than admirably for the injured Mark Grudzielanek, Todd Walker has been relegated to pinch hitter
and spot starter.  It’s time for Todd to reclaim his role as starting second baseman and catalyst for the Cub offense.

    Todd Walker hasn’t just had a good season offensively; he has been one of the elite second baseman in the
majors.  Of all the second basemen with over 200 at bats this year, only San Diego’s Mark Loretta currently has a
higher OPS (.866 to Walker’s .844).  Walker is also tied with Houston’s Jeff Kent for an NL-second-basemen-best
eleven homers despite having 60 fewer at-bats than the Astros’ slugger.  

Although not a prototypical leadoff man, Walker is hitting .295 out of the leadoff spot with a .375 OBP.  His 49 runs
scored projects to well over 100 if he were given full-time leadoff duties.

    Yet despite this incredible production from the middle infielder, Walker has only started 11 of the 29 games since
Grudzielanek came off the DL on June 20th.  And it’s not as though manager Dusty Baker is using him as the primary
pinch hitter off of the bench with the clutch Todd Hollandsworth on the DL; Walker has appeared as a pinch hitter in just
6 of those remaining 18 games.

    No one wanted to see Grudzielanek lose his starting job due to injury.  But Mark has now logged over 100 at bats on
the season, and it is clear that if one of these second basemen should lose out on playing time, it’s Grudz and his sub-.
700 OPS.

    This isn’t to say that Grudzielanek cannot still be a productive member of the club.  In fact, if you add Todd Walker’s
2003 statistics versus right-handed pitching with Mark Grudzielanek’s 2003 stats versus southpaws, you get the
following hitter:

AB  R   H   2B 3B HR RBI BB  SO AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS
529 92165 39  4  9   64   51  58  .312  .375   .452  .827

    I imagine that most teams would not complain about getting that kind of production out of second base.  A platoon of
this nature would be of particular value because Grudzielanek would also be able to pinch-run and provide late-inning
defensive relief for Walker (although Todd has only made four errors on the season).

    Alas, as is too often the case, salary is partially dictating the playing time for these two players.  Grudz is making
more money, so Grudz is getting more P.T.  

    Basically, the Cubs have a luxury that most other teams can only dream about this season: a second baseman who
can dominate on offense.  This is a luxury that they cannot afford to waste.