Friday, July 3, 2009

First-half surprises: D-Lee, Buehrle, Paulie

There have been a number of bright spots to celebrate about our Chicago teams this season, but also plenty to criticize. One of the most surprising things to me is that three of the players I felt would be embarking on career wanes this season have come up big.

1) Derrek Lee: 2 Hrs and 7 RBIs last night for a career-best game marked the high point of a strong couple of months for D-Lee. During the off-season, I was actually hoping the Cubs would find a way to move him despite his steady consistency of past years for more power, a left-handed or more speed at another position. But, D-Lee has virtually carried the Cubs in several game during their tough May and June slates. Still, the Cubs will need to re-assess after this season is over, whener that may be...

2) Mark Buehrle: His 8-2, 3.09 ERA says it all. After a couple years of being just good enough, he is back to being the rock of the pitching staff. Some of the other starters have struggled at times, but No. 56 has kept the Sox afloat. He very nearly had a complete game shutout last night, and continues to be effective in his own underpowering way. He only had one strikeout last night, but retired frustrated K.C. batters on a steady stream of grounders and pop-flies.

3) Paul Konerko: More than the other two, I thought Paulie might be a true liability this year, and that his ongoing service with the Sox would only result in a series of benchings, with a rotating cast of characters, including out-of-practice Jim Thome, playing 1st base. But, Paulie, while not pounding too many homers (13), is on a pace for 100 RBIs (49 right now) that primarily have been collected with timely, effective contact hitting. He's a notorious slow starter, yet has a .293 batting average, that hovered above .300 for much of the first half.

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