Numbers Deceiving

Things may not have always gone Eric Patterson's way in 2006. After being named to both the Southern League All-Star and MLB Futures Game's this past July, the 23-year-old's numbers seemed to take a dip throughout the second half at Double-A West Tennessee before he was promoted to Triple-A in late August.

Then again, numbers can be deceiving.

With Iowa, Patterson batted .358 (24-for-67) in 17 games and stole eight bases in as many attempts. His hot hitting continued all throughout this year's edition of the Arizona Fall League, where the second base prospect could be found at or near the top of many offensive categories.

Patterson closed out the Fall League on Thursday with a .345 average in 28 games for the Mesa Solar Sox. He finished tied for sixth in batting average and was first in stolen bases (15). He also finished tied for first in hits (39) and second in runs scored (27), picking up 13 multi-hit games along the way.

The apparent resurgence was encouraging, but there may not be a whole lot to look into.

That's the thing with statistics – often there's another side to the story.

In Patterson's case, Solar Sox manager and Cubs coach Pat Listach (who managed the former eighth-round pick at Double-A) certainly thinks so.

"He was doing the same thing here as he was at Iowa," Listach said of Patterson's showing in the Fall League. "He really had a good year in Double-A. The Southern League is a pitcher's league obviously. You look at the players that hit over .300 in that league every year and it's usually only two or three guys."

So while Patterson's showing at Iowa and in the Fall League was nice, Listach believes Patterson was hitting the ball just as hard at Double-A during his "struggles" those final two months there as he was in the Fall League.

That's the other thing about statistics – like certain politicians, they don't always tell the truth. Sometimes, in fact, they flat out lie.

"I think when you get out here, the air is light, the infields are fast, and balls are getting up the middle and finding the gaps a little better," Listach said. "That's probably more realistic to major league parks."

Thus, Listach believes that players such as Patterson benefit greatly from playing in more conventional ballparks like those in Arizona. That could go a small way in getting those players better prepared for some of the surroundings they'll one day face in the major leagues.

Just how soon will it be before Patterson starts hitting in some of those parks? Not even Listach can say. Only time will tell, although Patterson's showing in 2007 could be a good indicator.

However it shakes out, the Cubs obviously don't feel Patterson is ready to take over at the major league level right away.

The team inked free agent second baseman Mark DeRosa to a three-year contract earlier this week and still have the increasingly popular Ryan Theriot as a back-up plan should DeRosa struggle.

The Cubs are also in no hurry to rush Patterson as they did with older brother Corey many moons ago.

"He just played his first full season last year," reminded Cubs Minor League Field Coordinator Dave Bialas this past season. "Without a doubt, he has the tools. He can run and his fielding has really come a long way since he first came to us. The guy can hit, too. He knows how to play the game and his makeup is excellent."

As for Listach, he just knows that Patterson is the same hitter who batted almost .350 in the Fall League as the one who hit .227 over his final 40 games at Double-A.

"A lot of the balls he was hitting at Double-A were getting caught up in the gaps and getting caught," Listach said. "He hit a lot of balls hard that got caught. He's done a good job."

Yes, numbers can be deceiving.

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